by Chuck Cannon
U.S. Army Fort Polk Public Affairs Office
August 3, 2018
One of my favorite current television shows is “The Big Bang Theory.” The main character is Sheldon Cooper, a nerdish, genius who, among his many quirks, has a fixation on flags, so much so that he hosts an on-line program called “Sheldon Cooper Presents Fun with Flags.”
Cooper would probably be especially excited on June 14th ... Flag Day in the United States ... the day we celebrate our national colors.
Throughout its 240-year life, the colors have been called the Stars and Stripes, Old Glory and the Star-Spangled Banner.
On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution that called for the flag to be 13 alternating red and white stripes, with the union consisting of 13 white stars on a blue field.
Early flags took different forms, with the most popular the “Betsy Ross Flag,” consisting of the 13 alternating stripes and the 13 white stars in a circle on the blue union.
Over the years, the number of stars on the flag have increased to reflect the number of states in the U.S. Today the flag contains 50 stars.
For the majority of us who serve ... or have served ... in the military, the flag is a symbol of why we served and is often placed next to the graves of veterans and at war memorials. To that end, the United States Flag Code was adopted to provide guidelines for the use, display and disposal of the flag.
Some specific rules concerning the flag include:
• The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing, unless it is the ensign responding to a salute from a ship of a foreign nation.
• The flag should never be allowed to touch the ground.
• If the flag is flown at night, it must be illuminated.
• If the flag’s edges become tattered through wear, the flag should be repaired or replaced.
• When a flag is so tattered that it can no longer serve as a symbol of the U.S., it should be destroyed in a dignified manner.
The Flag Code prohibits using the flag for “advertising purposes” and states it “should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on articles such as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use.”
The code also states the flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding or drapery, and no part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. Also, the flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.
Most of these later prohibitions are typically ignored, especially at sporting events. However, even though the Flag Code is U.S. federal law, there is no penalty for private citizens or groups failing to comply with the code.
Respect for the flag, therefore, is left up to the individual.
My first “experience” with Old Glory occurred in 1972 when I went to Washington, D.C. on a 4-H Junior Leadership seminar. One of our stops was at the monument to the flag-raising on Iwo Jima. As I watched the flag billowing in the breeze, I was overcome with a sense of awe at those who placed their lives in harm’s way to ensure my freedom. Tears began to fall as I thought about their sacrifice. For the first time, I think I realized there was more to life than West Monroe, Louisiana.
Today, the flag still affects me the same way. When I see it, whether in person or on television, my chest swells with pride and my eyes begin to sweat. I’m proud to have served under the flag and I’m proud to work today for those who serve under her.
This Flag Day ... and every day ... I encourage everyone to honor Old Glory. She’s been through a lot, and she’ll probably be through a lot more.
Treat her with respect ... she’s earned it.