Flag Day is unique in many ways. First, the United States in the only country which honors its flag on a day all its own. Many other countries are required to fly their flags on specific days, and in some cases those days are referred to as a “Flag Day”, but no other country has a day exclusively as a day to recognize the symbolic meaning of its flag. Interestingly enough, Flag Day is not a National holiday. In fact, there are only a few isolated areas in America where the local governments have declared Flag Day as a Government Holiday.
OK, what is Flag Day?
First, as was mentioned earlier, Flag Day in the United states is the only Flag Day in the world that exists solely to honor the founding and creation of the National Flag. Other nations have a day referred to as “Flag Day”, but it is a day to recognize a particular, wartime victory, or a specific change in the development of the country, or something of the like. The American “Flag Day” however exists to commemorate the adoption by Congress of the Stars and Stripes as the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777.
Second, how did we get a “Flag Day”? The observance originated with a 19 year old Wisconsin school teacher, who on June 14, 1885, placed a flag in a bottle on his desk and assigned students to write essays on the flag and its significance. That teacher, Bernard Cigrand, spent many years seeking national recognition of Flag Day. President Wilson on May 16, 1916, issued a proclamation for the national observance of Flag Day. In 1949, President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating the 14th day of June every year as National Flag Day.
Third, why is “Flag Day” not recognized as a National Holiday? Actually, there are a couple of reasons. First, the timing is bad. Flag Day falls almost directly between Memorial Day and the 4th of July. In other words, this time of year is already pretty filled up with Holidays. Second, unlike most countries, in America, Every Day is supposed to be Flag Day. For the same reason why we are the only country on earth which designates a specific day to honor its flag; we also should be celebrating every day as Flag Day. To this day, even with all the problems existing in our country today, we are still a grand and glorious experiment in Democracy. Look at what this country has endured, and yet we are still basically the same country that existed on July 4, 1776. The Presidency still remains as the first leg of the tripod which governs our country. (The Supreme Court and Congress being the other two legs of that tripod, and they are also still in operation in basically the same way in which they were designed over 200 years ago.) It is hard to think of any other country that has stayed true to its roots to this very day, and simultaneously remains the leading power on earth. Other countries have come and gone, but we remain here, in basically our original form. How cool is that? We beat the odds in our creation, we beat the odds in remaining in existence, and we continue to beat the odds at staying solvent, as well as socially and economically intact, despite all the problems we currently have. It is hard to find another country that can match that record, and through it all, remain the world power that we are, as well as leading the world in so many ways; AND, no matter what political tensions exist, we are always there is help when other people are in peril, even our own “enemies”. ALL OF THIS, is represented by our flag, our symbol of who and what we are, and for what we stand. That why we have a flag day, and that is why, in this country, EVERY DAY should be a Flag Day. Remember our Pledge of Allegiance? It states, “I Pledge Allegiance, to the Flag of the United States of America. - PLEDGE ALLEGIENCE TO THE FLAG! We say that because we cannot run around the world with our entire country on our backs, but we can run around the world, Proudly carrying our flag, which we all know is the immediate representation of "THE REPUBLIC FOR WHICH IT (our flag) STANDS.", but the flag also represents the entire history of our Grand and Glorious Republic, as well as the reasons why our country was created, why our country continues to exist, no matter what. In our case, the flag is more than just a symbol, it is our entire country, from its beginning to the present moment, all contained in a 3-foot x 5-foot banner. Unlike any other country, our flag changes whenever our country grows. When we add a new state, we gain a new star on the field of blue. I know of no other national flag that is designed to change, as the country changes. Yes, our flag is far more than just a national symbol!
Some interesting facts, rules and customs regarding our flag.:
The flag customarily is displayed from sunrise to sunset. However, it can be displayed 24 hours a day if it is lighted at night. It should not be displayed during inclement weather.
The colors of the American flag are symbolic. The red stands for valor and hardiness. Blue stands for justice, perseverance, and vigilance. White stands for innocence and purity.
People sometimes refer to the American flag as 'Old Glory'. The term was first used by Captain William Driver in 1831. He was a shipmaster from Salem, Massachusetts and called the flag Old Glory after being given a flag by friends.
The American flag is also referred to as 'Stars and Stripes', which is a common nickname referring to the flag's design.
The design of the American flag has changed 27 times.
Despite the rule of raising the American flag at sunrise and lowering it as sunset, it is flown 24 hours at several locations, which is done by law or by presidential proclamation. At present, these are the locations where the American FLag flies 24 hours a day:
Fort McHenry, National Monument and Historic Shrine, Baltimore, Maryland
Flag House Square, Baltimore, Maryland
The United States Marine Corps Memorial (Iwo Jima), Arlington, Virginia
On the Green of the Town of Lexington, Massachusetts
The White House, Washington, D.C.
United States Customs Ports of Entry
Grounds of the National Memorial Arch in Valley Forge State Park, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
There are six American flags located on the moon. Apollo crews 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17 planted the flags on the moon. (The one planted by Neil Armstrong [Apollo 11 Commander] fell over during the liftoff of the Apollo 11 lunar assent module from the moon. (Apparently he placed it a little too close to the module and the blast exhaust knocked it over.) The five remaining astronauts corrected that error and the last five remain standing.
Lawmakers in the 19th century tried to pass restrictions on the use of the flag because of its use in advertising for products, which officials at the time felt was disrespectful.
Ethics aside, isn't this just a little illegal? According to Title 4 of the U.S. Code (Known as the “Flag Code”), which was written in the 1920s and adopted in 1942: “The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.
Especially since 9/11, the American flag has been plastered on everything from coffee mugs to underwear, and seeing people wearing it or in car commercials has become a daily occurrence.
But what many have forgotten is that the use of the flag in such contexts is expressly forbidden in official US Flag Code.
Wearing the flag as a lapel pin might be all right, but the bumper sticker on your SUV or those American flag toothpicks are definitely not proper according to Uncle Sam, however, it is generally overlooked since it is u sually done with pride of America in mind.
According to the subset of US Code which deals with the proper care and use of the American flag, “The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.”
Additionally, the code, which was written in the 1920s and adopted in 1942, states, “No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform.”
Although these federal laws are rarely enforced, they technically can be, with the punishment up to the discretion of individual states (or by the federal government, if the offense is committed Washington, DC).
The flag didn’t always have 13 stripes. In 1794, two extra stars and stripes were added to honor Kentucky and Vermont joining the Union. More than 20 years later — after concerns about having to keep adding stars and stripes — it was officially decided to just have 13 stripes (but to keep adding stars whenever another state joined).
The current star pattern on the flag was designed in 1958 by then 17-year-old student Robert G. Heft for a history project. The design was ultimately submitted to Congress and accepted by President Eisenhower.
Despite the fact that Flag Day is not a federal holiday many places around the United States hold parades and festivals to honor the American flag.
Flag Day is also the same day as the birthday of the United States Army.
Fairfield, Washington is home to the oldest continuous Flag Day parade in the United States. The parade has been held every year except for 1918, since 1909.
The largest Flag Day parade is held in Troy, New York. It is estimated the approximately 50,000 people attend this parade each year. Other large parades are held in Quincy, Massachusetts, and in Three Oaks, MI.
On the second Sunday in June the National Flag Day Foundation holds their Flag Day ceremonies including a ceremonial flag raising, a Pledge of Allegiance recitation, singing of America's national anthem, a parade and other activities.
When raising the flag, it should be hoisted quickly (officially referred to as “Briskly”). When lowering the flag, it should be lowered slowly and with dignity.
When displayed from a staff projecting horizontally or at an angle, such as how most of us do at the front of our homes, the Field of Stars should be at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff (more commonly referred to as “Half-Mast”). When the flag is suspended over a sidewalk from a rope extending from a house to a pole at the edge of the sidewalk, the flag should be hoisted out, with the Field of Stars first, from the building.
The flag should never be displayed with the Field of Stars down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life.
The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor or water.
The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.
The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. (It should be noted that the wearing of the flag as clothing is, by protocol, never done, however, the United States Supreme court has allowed the use of the image of the American flag to be used as clothing. It was decided that such a display was an individual’s right to express patriotism in their own way. However, you feel about that, it is not a crime to wear an image of the flag as apparel. Having said that, it IS illegal to take an already existing flag and alter it to become an article of clothing, or anything else for that matter. It is unlawful to alter, cut, mutilate, etc. an existing American flag.
The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed by burning. (Officially, disposing of a flag which is no longer fit for use is to destroy it in a dignified way. Burning has become the common method.) If burning is not an option, then two other legal and proper methods of disposing of a flag exist:
You may legally cut up the flag. You can cut the flag into pieces. Once a flag has been cut up, it is no longer an official U.S. flag and can be disposed of in various methods. When cutting up the flag, you will want to ensure that you do not cut into the blue star field. This section should remain whole (this is done to show the unity of the States and the American people under any and all conditions.) However, you can cut the rest of the flag as you see fit. Once the flag is properly cut up, you can dispose of it however you want, since it is now, no long a United States flag.
Use scissors or a knife to cut the flag.
Avoid tearing the flag. This can be considered disrespectful.
The blue star field represents the unity of the U.S. states, and cutting into that section is not legal, and could be considered a symbolic attempt to disrupt that unity.
Some may consider this method less ceremonial or disrespectful. Use your discretion, or talk to someone with experience disposing of flags, before you cut up a flag.
Another non-burning method considered dignified in disposing of a worn out flag is to bury the flag. Once a flag is worn, you can fold it up, place it in a box and bury it. As long as you are respectful about how you bury the flag, this is a good alternative to burning. Be sure to place the flag in a box since letting the soil touch the flag is considered disrespectful, even if in disposing of a flag.
Here are some guidelines by which to abide when burning a flag:
1. The flag should be folded in its customary manner.
2. It is important that the fire be fairly large and of sufficient intensity to ensure complete burning of the flag.
3. Place the flag on the fire.
4. The individual(s) can come to attention, salute the flag, recite the Pledge of Allegiance and have a brief period of silent reflection.
5. After the flag is completely consumed, the fire should then be safely extinguished, and the ashes buried.
6. Please make sure you are conforming to local/state fire codes or ordinances.
If you are not comfortable with performing any form of flag disposal yourself, the simplest alternative is to contact your local VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) outpost. Most of them actually hold monthly or periodic flag disposal ceremonies. The outposts that do not, will be glad to offer alternatives, probably the easiest of which will be to give it to that VFW outpost, and they will see to it that the flag gets to an outpost that will perform a proper ceremonial flag burning. There are businesses you can find online whom you can pay a nominal fee to perform a proper flag disposal service. Since you have to pay them, as well as the shipping cost, most people will tend to shy away from these businesses, despite the dishonor they may ultimately end up doing to our flag. As was stated, the VFW is a good option, and it is free, but many people provide a small donation, which is generally not required.
I have mentioned "Folding the Flag" several times in this article, but many people are unaware of the proper way to fold a flag. Here is a step by step, pictorial guideline showing the proper way to fold the American Flag.
At the ceremony of retreat, usually performed in the late afternoon or early evening, is a daily observance at bases during which all personnel pay respect to the flag; by the book, the rules for raising and lowering the flag are as follows;
1. At the first note oof retreat, the flag is lowered.
2. The flag is folded in a triangle fold as described above.
3. The flag is kept under guard throughout the night as a tribute to our nation’s honored dead.
4. The next morning, prior to reveille the flag is brought out.
5. The flag is then cerimoniously, attached to the flag hooks, and the honor guard stands at attention, holding the flag in place until the reveille bugle begins.
6. At the first note of reveille, the flag is run aloft as a symbol of our belief in the resurrection of the body.
Many of us have attended a funeral honoring a veteran who served our country, perhaps you witnessed the folding of the flag that once covered the casket of a loved one. Whether at a funeral of a fallen veteran or at the sound of retreat every evening, the honorable folding of the flag takes place. Each of the 13 folds of the flag holds great significance:
The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.
The second fold signifies our belief in eternal life.
The third fold is made in honor and tribute of the veteran departing our ranks, and who gave a portion of his or her life for the defense of our country to attain peace.
The fourth fold exemplifies our weaker nature as citizens trusting in God; it is to Him we turn for His divine guidance.
The fifth fold is an acknowledgment to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, “Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right, but it is still our country, right or wrong.”
The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
The seventh fold is a tribute to our armed forces, for it is through the armed forces that we protect our country and our flag against all enemies.
The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor our mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day.
The ninth fold is an honor to womanhood, for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty, and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great have been molded.
The 10th fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since he or she was first-born.
The 11th fold, in the eyes of Hebrew citizens, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The 12th fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost.
The last fold, when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, “In God We Trust.”
Finally; some information about the Pledge of Allegiance:
The Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy (1855-1931). It was originally published in The Youth's Companion on September 8, 1892. Bellamy had hoped that the pledge would be used by citizens in any country.
In its original form it read:
"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
In 1923, the words, "the Flag of the United States of America" were added. At this time it read:
"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
In 1954, in response to the Communist threat of the times, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words "under God," creating the 31-word pledge we say today. Bellamy's daughter objected to this alteration. Today it reads:
"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
REMEMBER WHY WE ARE HERE!