June 14th is Flag Day.
On that date in 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution stating, “Resolved. The flag of the 13 United States be 13 stripes, alternating red and white; that the union be 13 stars in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”
In 1916, a proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson made the observance of the Flag Resolution of the Second Continental Congress a national event.
However, the date did not become the nationally-recognized Flag Day, as we now know it until an August 3rd, 1949 act of Congress.
The oldest, continuing Flag Day parade is credited to Fairfield, Washington, where they’ve celebrated the date for more than 100 years.
Appleton, Wisconsin claims to have the oldest National Flag Day parade (Since 1950).
The largest Flag Day parade is credited to Troy, New York.
A Wisconsin grade school teacher, Bernard J. Cigrand held the first recognized formal observance of Flag Day in 1895.
Mr. Cigrand is considered by most as the “Father of Flag Day”.
This flag of ours goes by many names; the Flag of the United States of America, the American Flag, Stars & Stripes, Old Glory and the Star Spangled Banner.
Now, some would have us believe that Betsy Ross designed the first flag, based on a pencil sketch handed to her from George Washington.
While Ms Besty did make tents and repair uniforms of the Continental Army, there is no official evidence that she did the first flag.
That honor seems to belong to a naval flag designer Frances Hopkinson of New Jersey.
He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Hopkinson designed the 1777 flag and reportedly asked the Continental Congress for a payment of a “quarter cask of the public wine”.
The current 50 star flag as 13 equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white.
The blue rectangle in the canton (referred to specifically as the “union”) bears 50 small, white, 5 pointed stars, currently arranged in 9 offset horizontal rows, with 6 stars (top and bottom) alternating with rows of 5 white stars.
The current flag design is the 27th modification and was adopted July, 1960.
It is the longest-used version of Old Glory.
More than 1,500 designs were submitted to President Eisenhower as Alaska and Hawaii were being considered for statehood.
Credit for the accepted design seems to fall to 17 year old Robert Heft.
He did a school project in 1958 with the new flag design.
His teacher originally gave him a B- for his work.
But when his design was chosen, the teacher switched his project grade to an A.
Prior to that, the flag had been modified 26 times since 1777.
Over the years, the stars have been arranged in different designs, including circles and an actual large star made of the individual ones.
A U.S. Flag first appeared on a U.S Postal stamp when one was issued in 1926 commemorating the Battle of White Plains.
The first U.S Postage stamp featuring nothing but the Stars and Stripes didn’t come out until July 4th, 1957.
There is a legally toothless “U.S. Flag Code” since failure to comply with its’ provisions carry no penalties.
The code says the U.S. Flag should never be allowed to touch the ground.
If it’s flown at night, it must be illuminated.
A tattered or worn flag can be repaired but if it’s so badly damaged, it should be destroyed “in a dignified manner, preferably by burning.”
The flag should never be used as “wearing apparel, bedding or drapery”.
We violate this next one at many major sporting events.
The U.S. Flag Code says the flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always “aloft and free”.
And, despite a number of attempts to ban the practice, desecration of the flag is constitutionally protected as “free speech”.
Flying the flag as half-staff is done as a sign of respect or mourning.
There is no prohibition against municipalities, private businesses or citizens to fly the flag at half-staff although some “flag enthusiasts” feel lowering the flag on these occasions diminishes the meaning of the practice.
I must confess at times while driving about, I catch myself asking, “Now, why is the flag at half-staff today?”
On Memorial Day, the flag is raised briskly to the to the top of the mast and then lowered reverently to half-staff till noon, to honor our nation’s war dead.
At noon, the flag is then raised to the top of the staff, as we, the living “resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue to fight for liberty and justice for all.”
Kinda neat, huh?
Now, federal statutes provide that our flag should be flown at half-staff for several special occasions such as Patriot Day and Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
The flag also flies at half-staff for specific numbers of day for the death of a U.S. President or Vice-President, Supreme Court Chief Justice, Speaker of the House, Supreme Court Associate Justices, a member of the president’s cabinet, former Presidents or Vice-Presidents, President Pro Tempore of the Senate, plus the majority and minority leaders of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
The flag means different things to different people but I will always cherish the large American flag that draped my Father’s casket when he died in 1969.
That’s why our flag is more than just a piece of colorful material to me.
Next time at a sporting event when they play the National Anthem, don’t forget to remove your hat and place your right hand over your hear as you stand up..
It still means something to a lot of us.