Today is National Flag Day, an annual observance first marked on June 14, 1885 when Bernard J. Cigrand, a 19-year-old teacher at Stony Hill School, placed a 10-inch, 38-star flag in a bottle on his desk then assigned essays on the flag and its significance, according to the Flag Day foundation.
The observance was to commemorate the adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the flag of the U.S. on the same day in 1777. It also began Cigrand’s long years of fervent and devoted effort to bring about national recognition and observance of Flag Day.
President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation on May 30, 1916 calling for a nationwide observance of Flag Day. In 1949, President Harry Truman signed an Act of Congress designating the 14th day of June each year as National Flag Day. On June 14, 2004, the 108th U.S. Congress voted unanimously on H.R. 662 that Flag Day originated in Waubeka, Wisc.
Various groups work annually to keep the tradition alive and to educate the public on the proper display of the flag. That has special significance to many, especially those who have served in the military.
Harlan County High School JROTC instructor 1st Sgt. Sonny Long said, “It is very important to a veteran for our flag to be displayed appropriately. It is an honor to be able to fly the greatest nation’s flag and that honor should not be taken lightly. When somebody does display our flag it comes with the responsibility to be displayed correctly.”
Serving as an instructor to youth who often are responsible for the presentation of colors at special events and for the daily raising of the flag at the school, Long is well versed in flag etiquette.
As he travels, he said the most common problem that many encounter with the proper display of the flag is “normal wear and tear. The flag is faded, discolored, or shredding some. It has not been abused, it is just time to retire that particular flag. The U.S. Flag Code states to dispose of the flag with dignity and respect preferably by burning. It should not be a show or a big issue. Just do it privately with respect.”
Long said those currently in the military, as well as those who served in the past, do want to see the flag displayed according to code.
“It makes me cringe when I see a flag displayed improperly,” he said. “It’s not that hard to educate yourself on the flag. Just research the U.S. Flag Code. It will tell you every way the flag can be displayed and the correct way.”
Long joined the Army National Guard at age 17 when he was a junior in high school. He entered active duty in 1987 with the Army National Guard.
He has since served in Germany, Scotland and Iraq, having been trained in Infantry, Airborne and Combatives instructor.
“I served in Iraq from June 2005 through June 2006,” he said, retiring from active duty in December 2007 and then was hired the next month as the Army JROTC instructor at Evarts High School. He has been at HCHS since it opened six years ago.
The website www.usflag.org/flagetiquette.html serves as a resource for flag etiquette and standards of respect. Some of the reminders include:
- The flag is not flown at night unless properly lit.
- It should not touch other objects such a nearby tree or roof;
- The flag should never be used for advertising purposes;
- It is not to be printed or impressed on articles such as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes and numerous other items which are discarded after temporary use;
- The flag should never be used as a drapery or for covering a speaker’s desk or for any other general decoration.
- And, it should never be used for the design of clothing such as swimsuits, T-shirts, costumes, athletic uniforms and others. It is permissible to wear a flag patch on the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen and members of patriotic organizations.
When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol for our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner. Contact a local scout group or the American Legion post to inquire about the availability of this service.