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June 14: A day to honor Old Glory

This coming Friday, June 14, marks America’s celebration of Flag Day. Many Michiganders will recall — in elementary school, at houses of worship, Scout meetings and other ceremonies — a tribute to honor Old Glory, our American flag.

Our Flag’s History

The holiday commemorates June 14, 1777, when the nation’s founders and leaders stated, “Resolved: that the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”

In 1861, George Morris of Connecticut, is said to have organized the first formal celebration of America’s flag in Hartford.

In 1885, Wisconsin schoolteacher Berbard J. Cigrand urged his students to observe a “Flag Birthday.” Two years later William T. Kerr founded the American Flag Association of Western Pennsylvania.

In 1916, President. Woodrow Wilson proclaimed June 14th as the official date for Flag Day, and in 1949 the U.S. Congress permanently established the date as National Flag Day. Although Flag Day is not an official federal holiday, Pennsylvania celebrates the day as a state holiday. Each year the president delivers an address proclaiming the week of June 14th as National Flag Week. Encouragement is offered for all Americans to fly U.S. flags during that week.

Since America’s flag original design by Betsy Ross in 1777, it has undergone 26 modifications. During the Revolutionary War, Ross was recognized for repairing military uniforms and tents.

Flag Etiquette

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania based National Flag Foundation (NFF) offers the following guidelines for various occasions:

• Speaking engagements – the American flag is always placed to the right of the speaker with other flags to the left,

•Flagpoles – when with a group of other flags, the American flag should be at the center and at the highest point amongst the group.

• Crossed – when the American flag is crossed with another flag its placement should be the observer’s left.

• Wall Display – when the American flag is displayed vertically or horizontally the star field is to be placed at the top.

• Outdoor Display – when displayed or hung from a staff the star field is at the staff’s peak.

• Street Display – When the American flag is hung over a street, it should be hung vertically, with the union to the north or east. If the flag is suspended over a sidewalk, the starfield should be farthest from the building.

• Raising and Lowering of the Flag – America’s flag should be raised briskly and lowered slowly and ceremoniously. Ordinarily it should be displayed only between sunrise and sunset. It should be illuminated if displayed at night. America’s flag is saluted as it is hoisted or lowered. The salute is held until the flag is unsnapped from the halyard or through the last note of music, whichever is the longest.

• Folding America’s flag – visual details can be found at www.nationalflagfoundation.org

• The American flag should never touch anything beneath it such as the ground, floor or water. The flag be never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.

• The president, state governor, or District of Columbia Mayor have the authority to place the flag at half-staff.

• Finally, the American Legion’s website states the flag may be draped upon a coffin with others besides veterans. It is suggested you consult with your funeral director for specifics.

Disposing of Our Flag

With a 1942 law passed by Congress, the U.S. Flag Code says, “The Flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” When an American Flag is worn beyond repair, it should be retired in a respectful manner.

The NFF based upon the U.S. Flag Code offer the following explicit regulations:

• Burning a Flag – The first way to dispose of an American flag is to hold a flag burning ceremony at your home or other private location. Before conducting a burning ceremony, note the flag’s material and the local fire ordinances. Some materials may emit toxins if openly burned.

Begin a flag-burning ceremony by folding the whole flag. See the National Flag Foundation’s website for instructions. Next, start a fire large enough to completely burn the flag and respectfully place into the fire. The flag should never touch the ground in the process.

As the flag begins to burn, salute the flag, say the Pledge of Allegiance and pause for a moment of silence. The flag should be thoroughly burned so that nothing besides ashes is left. Finally, bury the ashes.

• Community Disposal Box – A second way to dispose of an American flag is to drop it off in an authorized flag disposal box. In many communities, local government offices and police stations have disposal boxes. Throughout the year, organizations like the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Girl Scouts, and Boy Scouts collect the disposed flags and hold ceremonies to retire them. Flag Day is one of the most common days to hold flag disposal ceremonies.

The Stars for our Troops program also accepts worn-out American flags. A volunteer for the program will cut out and send the flag’s embroidered stars to an American military member.

• Burying a Flag – Although the U.S. Code says that burning is the preferred method to dispose of a flag, people also do so flag via burial. If you choose this method, place a folded flag in a dignified wooden box. Pause for a moment of silence after burying the box in the ground.

• Recycling a Flag – A final option for disposing of a flag is to recycle it. Some flag companies will accept worn flags and use the material to make new ones.

Who Can Dispose of a Flag? – Anyone can hold a flag disposal ceremony. Whoever chooses to retire a flag should only proceed with these authorized, respectful and dignified methods.

Jeffrey D. Brasie is a retired health care CEO. He frequently writes historic feature stories and op-eds for various Michigan newspapers. As a Vietnam-era veteran, he served in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Naval Reserve. He served on the public affairs staff of the secretary of the Navy. He grew near the tip of the mitt and resides in suburban Detroit.

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