To encourage and fortify relationships between military service members, veterans, their families, their friends, and their Country; to nurture the path of communication for everyone, ensuring that no one is alone or left behind; and proving that we have not, are not, and will never forget the nobility of their sacrifices.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Red, White, And Blue

The first time I heard of Flag Day was back in Junior High when my English teacher made everyone enter in the Elks Lodge Flag Day essay contest. The topic was, "What does the Flag mean to you?" I don't remember what I wrote, I do remember printing it out on a dot matrix printer and thinking it was nothing special. The judges at the Elks thought differently however, I was awarded First place. It was the first and only time I ever received an award.

It came to my attention a few days ago that Flag Day is one of those holidays that not only escapes peoples attention, but relatively few are even aware of its significance. The teacher in me, the history buff with a compulsion to impart information on others, elected to write up some facts about Old Glory.

The biggest surprise I encountered is that the story of Besty Ross sewing the first flag is an urban legend. The tale, which originates from her grandson, didn't gain momentum until 100 years after Ross' own death. There are no documents to prove her grandson's claims, yet also no documents to disproved them either. Nevertheless, the story is presumed a myth.

On June 14, 1777 Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act discarding all evidence of British influence from the United States Colors. Since 1777, the Flag has been altered 26 times, the last time being when Hawaii joined the union. The Flag as we know it today consist of fifty white starts on a blue background and thirteen horizontal stripes; seven red, and six white. The stars represent all fifty states and the thirteen stripes the original thirteen colonies. Although there is no official endorsed meaning behind the colors red, white, and blue, Charles Thompson, Secretary of the Continental Congress is accredited with saying, "Red is for hardness and valor, white for purity and innocence, and blue for vigilance, perseverance, and Justice."

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued an official proclamation establishing June 14th as Flag Day. Thirty-three years later in 1949, Congress ratified the proclamation. Although Flag Day is not an official Federal holiday, and Pennsylvania is the only State to celebrate it as an official State holiday, there is Federal Law dealing with Official Flag etiquette.

The Official Flag etiquette, referred to as the "Flag Code" deals with a full range of topics. For example, when displayed outside, the Flag should be illuminated at all times, either by sunlight or lamp. The code also provides details on the proper way to handle, fold, and dispose of a flag when necessary. Most interestingly, it also prohibits the Flag to be used in any type of advertising. It also gives specific dates and events in which the flag should be flown at Full Staff and Half Mast.

The Flag should be flown at Full Staff on the following days; New Years Day, Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday, Lincoln's Birthday, President's Day, (Formally Washington's Birthday) Inauguration Day, (held once every four years) Armed Forces Day, (May 3rd) Memorial Day, (Half Mast until noon) Flag Day, (June 14th) Independence Day, Labor Day, Constitution Day, (September 17th) Columbus Day, Navy Day, (October 27th) Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving Day.

The Flag is Flown at Half mast on the following day; Peace Officers Memorial Day, (held on the 3rd Saturday of May unless it falls on Armed Forces Day) Memorial Day, (until noon) Korean War Veteran's Day, (July 23rd, the remembrance of this day was reinstated in 2009) Patriot Day, (September 11th) Fire Prevention Week, (1st Sunday in October) and National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (December 7th.)

In addition to designated days in which the Flag should be held at Half Mast, there are detailed guidelines of flag display following the deaths of certain national figures. As an example, the flag will be lowered to half mast following the death of the President, Vice President, or members of Congress.

For continued respect year-round, there are four cemeteries in which the Flag is held at half mast year round. They are the Post Cemetery at Mackina Island in Michigan, Punchbowl in Honolulu, Gettysburg National Cemetery, and Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

The American Flag means many things to many different people. Without a doubt, the men and women who have fought for our country have a different relationship with our colors than those who have not. The American Flag is an international symbol of resolve in which we, the American public, should take immense pride, and show respect for Our Flag everyday.

My flag is flying.... is yours?

USA Flag Site
National Flag Day Foundation
The Holiday Spot-Flag Day This is a fantastic learning site for children, complete with images and crafts.
The US Flag Organization
Wikipedia- Flag of the United States
Wikipedia-Flag Day