Today is Flag Day. Banners are strung from flagpoles, rooftops, front porch railings. It’s a day to honor every connotation the American flag carries. It’s a day to celebrate and respect what the flag means to each person.
To some, the flag is a symbol of freedom and sacrifice, a reminder of lives and loves lost. To some it represents unity. A banner for a nation made of myriads to stand behind.
To many abroad or in the military, the flag is a small piece of home they can carry with them. It’s something to hang onto and know that what it represents is much stronger than the fabric it’s woven on.
Despite cultural, linguistic, religious, or political differences, the flag is the one thing that represents everyone. It’s a reminder that, despite everything, we have one thing in common: the flag has nurtured us all.
The American Flag was born on June 14, 1777, when congress voted it into being. Those men determined that the new country needed a standard to represent all they wanted the new United States to stand for.
However, it was one hundred years before there was a day to celebrate the Stars and Stripes. It started in Waubeka, Wisconson in 1885, when a 19-year-old school teacher named Bernard John Cigrand declared June 14 the flag’s birthday. He instructed to his students to write an essay about the flag’s symbolism.
It was the first Flag Day. From that day on, Cigrand devoted himself to educating adults and students alike in the history and meaning of the flag.
In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation calling for a nationwide observance of Flag Day, and, in 1949, President Harry Truman signed an act designating each June 14 as National Flag Day.
When it comes to flag etiquette, many know that the Stars and Stripes should never touch the ground. However, here are a few other tips for flying the flag:
• When displaying the flag on a flagpole, the American flag should always be at the peak, above every other flag.
• The flag should never be tied back, it should always fall free.
• When displayed on porches, the flag should always be to the right of the front door.
• The flag should never be pinned. It should be hung vertically, or suspended horizontally, so that the folds fall free.
• The flag is always hung to its own right--this means that the blue field should be on the observer’s left.
• The flag should never be carried flat, it should always be folded and stored in a clean, dry environment when not in use.
• It’s traditional to fly the flag from sunrise to sunset only. However, if flown at night the flag should be properly lit with its own, individual light.
What to do with old flags? There is a proper way to retire the Stars and Stripes.
The Boy Scouts of America, the American Legion and other organizations host flag disposal ceremonies. A disposal ceremony is meant to honor the flag — to give it a send-off worthy of its symbolic nature.
The ceremony is generally held at night, with a specific script to make sure the flag is unserviceable and properly decommissioned. It is then folded and burned on a ceremonial fire. Those in attendance give a salute and once the flag is burned, the fire is put out and the ashes are buried.
For those with old, tattered, or torn flags, contact your local veterans organization, Boy Scouts, or city hall and ask for the nearest flag-collection area.
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.