Flag Day, the forgotten U.S. holidayPublished 3:44pm Thursday, June 20, 2013
A little trivia question is in order for today.
What holiday comes between Memorial Day and the 4th of July? No, it’s not the first day of spring or Father’s Day which I guess are technically holidays. The one I am thinking about is probably the most neglected day of the summer. Of course, it is Flag Day.
For those who are date challenged, Flag Day was June 14. It is overshadowed by all of the biggie holidays and it just slips by.
When you think about the American flag you probably think of Betsy Ross who was painted as sitting and sewing the flag. We have all seen those pictures.
The flag is popularly attributed to Betsy Ross, using the common alternating red-and-white striped field with five-pointed stars in a blue field. The flag was designed during the American Revolution and features 13 stars to represent the original 13 colonies. The distinctive feature of the Ross flag is the arrangement of the stars in a circle.
Although the Betsy Ross story is accepted by most Americans, some flag historians do not accept the Betsy Ross design as the first American flag. According to the traditional account, the original flag was made in June 1776, when a small committee—including George Washington, Robert Morris and relative George Ross—visited Betsy and discussed the need for a new American flag. Betsy accepted the job to manufacture the flag, altering the committee’s design by replacing the six-pointed stars with five-pointed stars.
While the Betsy Ross legend is questionable, the flag design is known to have been in use by 1777. It is one of the oldest versions of U.S. flags known to exist; while it is not the oldest surviving flag artifact in cloth form. That makes the flag 236 years old.
In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson officially established June 14 as Flag Day by a proclamation. President Harry Truman formally signed an Act of Congress in 1949 establishing the observance. Flag Day is not an official federal holiday. Some places in the United States take Flag Day seriously. Parades and other events are planned to commemorate the establishment of the flag. Celebrating Flag Day promotes patriotism and respect for the flag.
How does Edwardsburg celebrate Flag Day? Each year the American Legion, the Boy Scouts and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, (VFW) collect torn and tattered flags that need to be retired.
To properly dispose of a flag they must be burned. The flag disposal ceremony is to respect and honor the flag that is no longer serviceable; in the ceremony the members in a special formation are presented the flag for inspection. The Sergeant of Arms presents the flag to the first and second Vice Commanders and then to the Commander of the Post.
It is explained that the flags have served their country and they are now unserviceable, and it is recommended a proper and honorable disposal of the flags. The Post Commander than pays an oral tribute to the flags and calls for the burning. The Chaplain offers a prayer to bless the event and give thanks to God for our country and the flag that stands for freedom. The Color Guard presents arms and Post members salute. The flags are then set ablaze and the bugler plays “To The Colors.”
The pile of flags seems to get bigger each year as more flags are flown in our community; even on our village street light poles.
In 2010, Matthew Stringfellow as an Eagle Scout project built flag collection boxes and placed them around the community. In addition to Flag Day, a flag retirement ceremony is held again on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. Place your flag in the box at the Edwardsburg Museum, the American Legion or the VFW and plan to attend one of the flag retirement ceremonies.
Jo-Ann Boepple is a volunteer at the Edwardsburg Area Historical Museum.