Our country proudly shows its colors
Bev Herndon, Staff Writer
Red, white and blue. The American Flag is a symbol of national unity, pride, independence, hardiness and valor (the red); purity and innocence (white), and vigilance, perseverance and justice (blue).
The flag has taken on many changes through the years and tells a story of this great nation from the time the 13 original colonies were still British colonies.
Between 1777 and 1960, the flag’s shape and design, as well as the arrangement of the stars, was changed several times to allow additional stars and stripes to reflect the admission of each new state.
The flag today represents many things, including the sacrifices of brave men and women who gave their lives for us — yes, for all of us.
Today’s flag consists of 13 stripes (seven red and six white) representing the original colonies, and 50 stars representing the 50 states of the union.
Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, stores have found it impossible to keep flags in stock. Everyone, it seems, wants a flag to show their support for the nation. Take a look around, there are flags everywhere. It’s a shame it took a catastrophe to bring us to this.
With all the flags flying, I thought this is the time to think about the appropriate way to fly, fold and discard a flag. Someone came into our office last week and said the same thing. So I did a little research.
Displaying the flag:
The flag is displayed daily, weather permitting, on holidays near public institutions, at schools during school days, and at voting areas on election days.
When displayed against a wall, the “canon” or “union” (the blue field with the white stars) should be to the left of the observer.
When a flag appears in a parade or held while marching, everyone should face the flag, remove their hats and stand in silence with their right hand over their heart.
The flag should never be pointed toward any person or object or touch anything under it, including the ground. It is flown upside down only as a distress signal.
It should never be used as a drapery or decoration in general or for any advertising purpose. It should not be embossed or printed on anything that will be discarded after temporary use.
The flag should not be used as part of a uniform or costume except as a flag patch on the uniform of military personnel, firefighters, police officers and members of patriotic organizations.
When displayed with another flag on the same flagpole, the United States flag should always be at the top with this exception: a church pennant may be flown above the flag during church services for Navy personnel when conducted by a Naval chaplain on a ship at sea.
When hung with flags of state, communities or societies on separate flag poles of the same height and in a row, the U.S. Flag is always placed in the position of honor (in front or above). Other flags may be smaller, and no other flag should be placed above the U.S. Flag.
When displayed over a street, it should be hung vertically with the union to the north or east.
The U.S. Flag should always be the first raised and the last lowered.
The flag should be raised quickly and lowered slowly, and only displayed between sunrise and sunset. If displayed at night, it should be illuminated.
If displayed indoors, the flag should be to its own right, positioned to the right of the speaker or staging area or sanctuary. Any other flag should be to the left. When a number of flags are displayed, the U.S. Flag should be at the center and the highest point of the group.
When using the U.S. Flag with another flag with the staffs crossed, the U.S. Flag is placed on its own right with its staff in front of the other flag.
When the flag is used for mourning, it should be placed at half staff, hoisted to the peak for an instant and lowered to a halfway position on the staff. The flag should be raised again to the peak for a moment before it is lowered. This is done out of respect to the deceased.
On Memorial Day, the flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon and full-staff from noon to sunset. When covering a casket, the flag should be placed with the union at the head and over the left shoulder, and never lowered into the grave.
Folding the flag:
The flag should be folded once lengthwise, then again lengthwise, then into right-angle triangles. Start on the end with the red and white stripes.
The 12 folds represent the following:
The first symbolizes life; second, eternal life; third, honor and remembrance of past veterans; fourth, our weaker nature and trust in God; fifth, our tribute to our country; sixth, where our hearts lie; seventh, tribute to our armed forces; eighth, valley of the shadow of death; ninth, womanhood; 10th, fatherhood; the 11th fold, in the eyes of our Hebrew citizens, is a tribute to King David and King Solomon, and the 12th fold, to Christians, represents eternity and glorifies God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
When the flag is completely folded, the white portion should not show. Tuck it into the pocket of the tri-fold. You will end up with three corners — a triangle.
Disposing the flag:
The U.S. Flag Code states: “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem of display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”
This is appropriate when flags are too tattered, dirty or faded to use. The proper way to dispose of the flag is to burn it in a ceremony or bury it.
To retire a worn-out flag, call the nearest Veterans of Foreign Wars or American Legion post for pickup.
For more information, visit the American Legion Web site at www.legion.org.