Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Largely Overlooked Holiday

When was the last time you said the Pledge of Allegiance? While I no longer recite the declaration of loyalty on a weekly basis at Rotary meetings, I still stand at attention and give the flag the respect it deserves every month when we open the lodge. There are even occasions when a couple of the brothers, also members of the Sojourners, recite “A Toast to the Flag”. It is a presentation that holds deep meaning for those brothers preforming the poem as well as those witnessing the recitation.

On this day, Flag Day, we commemorate the adoption of our flag which happened on this day in 1777 by resolution of the Second Continental Congress. This flag, while different than what we know it to be today, then served as a unified representation by which our two year old Continental Army would rally around. And while the early years saw many different designs (especially regarding the arrangement of stars), it has constantly flown as a representation of this country for well over two centuries.

However, it wasn’t until 1916 that Flag Day came into being when President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14th as Flag Day. Congress officially established the federal holiday in August 1949. During this period of time, the National Flag Code was constructed by representatives of over 68 organizations, under the auspices of the National Americanism Commission of the American Legion who created the code on Flag Day 1923. The code drafted by that conference was printed by the national organization of the American Legion and given nationwide distribution.

With few changes made to the original code drafted in 1923 (most notably was the removal of the Bellamy salute dues to its similarities to the Hitler salute), on June 22, 1942, the Code became Public Law 77-623; chapter 435. Since that time, there have been few changes made with some notable exceptions being the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 (prohibits real estate management organizations from restricting homeowners from displaying the Flag of the United States on their own property), the Army Specialist Joseph P. Micks Federal Flag Code Amendment Act of 2007 (added a provision to fly the flag at half-staff upon the death of a member of the Armed Forces from any State, territory, or possession who died while serving on active duty), and the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 (Sec. 595) (allows the military salute for the flag during the national anthem by members of the Armed Forces not in uniform and by veterans).

If it were a simple document I would include the code within this post but as many of you know the Flag Code is anything but simple and it is in fact quite extensive in the proper protocol for displaying, honoring, and even retiring a flag (among other things). In fact, many of use probably break the law at some point during our lives. While some may see the code as antiquated, it is a simple gesture to demonstrate our appreciation not just of our flag but of what it stands for and those who have defended and died for it. The holiday may be a single block on the calendar but the flag waves throughout the year as a constant reminder of the freedom that we have in this country and the liberty that it symbolizes. While some seem to forget this on a daily basis there are many of us who will never forget and continue to fight for the rights of all which are integral to this country just as every thread is essential to the creation of our flag.