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Constitution Day and Constitution Week

A More Perfect Union: The Creation of the U.S. Constitution

Our United States Constitution was created during the long hot summer of 1787, at the State House in Philadelphia. From the Charters of Freedom, A New World Is At Hand, in the National Archives:

May 25, 1787. Freshly spread dirt covered the cobblestone street in front of the Pennsylvania State House, protecting the men inside from the sound of assing carriages and carts. Guards stood at the entrances to ensure that the curious were kept at a distance. Robert Morris of Pennsylvania, the “financier” of the Revolution, opened the proceedings with a nomination–Gen. George Washington for the presidency of the Constitutional Convention. The vote was unanimous. With characteristic ceremonial modesty, the general expressed his embarrassment at his lack of qualifications to preside over such an august body and apologized for any errors into which he might fall in the course of its deliberations.

To many of those assembled, especially to the small, boyish-looking, 36-year-old delegate from Virginia, James Madison, the general’s mere presence boded  well for the convention, for the illustrious Washington gave to the gathering an air of importance and legitimacy But his decision to attend the convention had been an agonizing one. The Father of the Country had almost remained at home.

Suffering from rheumatism, despondent over the loss of a brother, absorbed in the management of Mount Vernon, and doubting that the convention would accomplish very much or that many men of stature would attend, Washington delayed accepting the invitation to attend for several months. Torn between the hazards of lending his reputation to a gathering perhaps doomed to failure and the chance that the public would view his reluctance to attend with a critical eye, the general finally agreed to make the trip. James Madison was pleased.

Continue reading the story at Archives.gov.

The Daughters of the American Revolution have long promoted the Constitution, and in 1929 dedicated their Constitution Hall in tribute to the Constitution. In 1955, the DAR petitioned Congress to set aside the week of September 17-23 each year, to be dedicated for the observance of Constitution Week. The resolution was later adopted by the U.S. Congress and signed into public law on August 2, 1956, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.  Saturday, the DAR will host ceremonies all across the United States to honor and read the U.S. Constitution.  The aims of the DAR during the Constitution Week celebration are to:

  • Emphasize citizens’ responsibilities for protecting and defending the Constitution.
  • Inform people that the Constitution is the basis for America’s great heritage and the foundation for our way of life.
  • Encourage the study of the historical events which led to the framing of the Constitution in September 1787.

 Constitution_Pg1of4_AC

See here, for a splendid recitation of the Preamble to the Constitution.

See also Constitution Day

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Back to the future with Colin Kaepernick

440px-Eldridge_Cleaver_1968If only Colin Kaepernick could travel back to the future and meet Eldridge Cleaver.

Kapernick, a football player in the National Football League, has chosen to boycott the National Anthem by not standing, and not saluting—believing somehow that his action will improve the lives of black Americans. Eldridge Cleaver, a Black Panther who engaged in genuine war against the United States, might tell Kaepernick, “You are either part of the solution or part of the problem.”

Cleaver’s tortuous beliefs in Marxism and atheism led him to escape  the United States and make his way to Cuba, North Korea, North Vietnam, the Soviet Union, China, France, and Algeria, and finally, home to the U.S., as a Christian ready to embrace his country again, no matter what the cost. Cleaver recognized that while the U.S. was not perfect (and never will be),  it was a beacon to the rest of the world. He was forever grateful for finding his way home.

Eldridge Cleaver’s life was never easy, but I suspect he’d encourage Colin Kaepernick to be “part of the solution.”

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Salute during the National Anthem

Yes. We are supposed to salute the flag during the National Anthem, with either a “heart salute” (right hand over the heart) or a military salute if you are active duty. Veterans are also permitted to present a military salute if so desired.

The United States Code (our giant collection of American law—laid out in great detail) contains the National Anthem Code and the Flag Code, but the two documents are not found in the same section of the U.S. Code. Portions of the Flag Code are frequently cited (on Memorial Day, Flag Day, and Independence Day), while the National Anthem Code is rarely mentioned at all.

The National Anthem Code and the Flag Code are laws, but laws predicated on honor and goodwill. No one is compelled to stand at attention and salute, or Pledge allegiance to the flag. Americans have, to borrow a phrase, free will regarding our public display of allegiance and affection for the Anthem and the flag, and indeed, some religious denominations forbid these American rituals.

I will not quote all of the National Anthem Code, but here is the part most people are interested in. Please carefully note Section 2. The National Anthem itself  is the point of honor, so even if we cannot see the flag, we are to turn in the direction of the music, stand at attention and salute.

§301. National anthem

(a) Designation.—The composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.

(b) Conduct During Playing.—During a rendition of the national anthem—

(1) when the flag is displayed—

(A) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note;

(B) members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute in the manner provided for individuals in uniform; and

(C) all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and

(2) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.

 

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Not found in the Flag Code

What the Flag Code doesn’t say

ScreenHunter_251 Jun. 24 15.44

There were a lot of news stories last week about flag retirement ceremonies, held in conjunction with Flag Day. Here are excerpts from three that I found especially troubling due to misinformation.  I edited them to remove names and other identifying information because I like these people and I don’t want to embarrass them: Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and the American Legion.

What the Flag Code says about retiring our American flag is short and succinct:

§8. Respect for flag:  (k) 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.

We are given great latitude in how we conduct flag retirements. I am very grateful to the organizations that conduct these ceremonies; it is an honorable and welcome service that they perform. But imagine my surprise when I found a news story about a flag retirement ceremony that said this,

“ … the scouts recently participated in a flag retirement ceremony. This ceremony is necessary when a flag has become too worn to be displayed. In these cases, the respectful way to dispose of the  flag is for it to be burned. Only three entities can officially retire a flag. They are VFW posts, Scout troops and American Legion posts.” 

What? That’s not what the Flag Code says. Anyone can retire the flag. The Daughters of the American Revolution would be quite surprised to be told they can’t retire their own flags. I frequently encourage families to have their own flag retirement ceremonies. Get the children to write some sweet script, and take a moment to talk about important flags in American history.  I am willing to trust the average American to retire his own flag. We are all official when it comes to retiring the flag.

From another news story:

 “The various elements of the flag … The stars, the red and white stripes and the blue background are included on the flag for a specific purpose.  Once the description has been read, the flag is cut apart.

The stars are saved and will be presented to veterans at a later date [ … ]. The stripes are individually cut off the flag and placed in a fire. The fire container must only be used for flag retirement and nothing else. During the burning portion of the ceremony, no one is to speak and silence has to be maintained out of respect.  [ … ]  Flags are burned one at a time and only after a flag is completely burned will the next one be burned. Silence is observed throughout the entire ceremony.

In the Flag Code, directly above Subsection (k) is Subsection (j) which says [ … ] The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. [ … .]

If the flag is “considered a living thing,” then dismembering a flag so old and worn out that it’s ready for retirement is rather egregious in my opinion. The flag has already served in honor—now it’s faded, ripped and torn, tattered on the fly.  Isn’t that enough?

And why would cutting out the stars and saving them (set aside to be given away later) be more important than the stripes? The flag was never meant to be parceled out in bits and pieces. That’s why we set it on fire in a ceremony, and burn it to ashes. Otherwise we could be making quilts out of the stripes—or kites, and patriotically flying them on the 4th of July.

Our most popular flag myth

And I read this:

 “ … flags should be retired for a number of reasons. The first indication a flag has become unserviceable is faded colors, but [ … ]  a flag should be retired if it has touched the ground. It’s just been a principle of the flag etiquette for years in the country, which is to keep all flags from touching the ground … . “

“When it comes to proper disposal, [ … ] it’s best to leave it to the experts [said the American Legion commander, who ] discourages anyone from burning their own flag, and invites area residents to turn their worn out flags over to the American Legion or any other veterans organization.”

No where in the Flag Code does it say that if a flag touches the ground, it should be destroyed. Yes, every effort should be made to keep the flag from touching the ground and other things beneath it (landscaping for example, and automobiles at giant car dealerships), but destroying a perfectly good flag is unnecessary, and not supported by the text. I am certain if those who codified the Flag Code meant for us to retire a dropped flag, they would have mentioned it specifically.

Flags fall down. Home flags mounted on diagonal poles are especially vulnerable to being blown out of the mount. The wind can pull one out of your hands while putting it up or taking it down (it’s happened to me). It’s a good idea to have a back up flag, if the flag does get dirty, but it doesn’t have to be destroyed, it just needs to be laundered or sent to the dry cleaners.

From the same newspaper article:

How to properly retire a U.S. flag:  Once a U.S. flag becomes worn, frayed or dirty, the flag is considered unserviceable and unable to properly fly. In order to suitably retire a U.S. or other American national flag, several procedures are to be followed in order to avoid any disrespect or desecration. According to the Veterans Department of Affairs and U.S. Flag Code, here are the steps to burn a flag: (my italics–DH)

1. Prepare a fire large enough to sufficiently burn the entire flag.

2. Fold the flag in a customary triangle manner.

3. Place the flag on the fire carefully and respectfully.

4. Individuals should salute or recite the Pledge of Allegiance, as well as observe a moment of silence.

5. Allow the flag to be completely consumed.

6. Once the fire is cool, collect the ashes and any pieces of the flag.

7. Bury the ashes.

[The American Legion commander said] “ in order to ensure the flag is disposed properly, the flag must be given to a veteran’s organization. [He] encourages anyone with an unserviceable flag to donate it to any local American Legion post.

The Department of Veterans Affairs compiled a 52-page booklet about American history, veterans, the flag, and the scope of the department. No where in the booklet does it say anything about flag retirement ceremonies except to repeat the same section from the Flag Code:

§8. Respect for flag:  (k) 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.

Lastly, from the American Legion’s own website, in a section called Flag Myths, it identifies this myth:

You must destroy the flag when it touches the ground.
As long as the flag remains suitable for display, the flag may continue to be displayed as a symbol of our great country.

As I said at the beginning, I am grateful to civic and service organizations who perform the job of retiring our American flags. It’s an important service and it’s a big job, too. And they can choose any ceremony they want, but please make sure your script says, “This is how we like to retire the flag,” because it’s highly inappropriate and misleading to say “this is what the Flag Code says” when it doesn’t.

And don’t tell me I can’t retire my own flag.

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Is it ok to fly a company flag on the same pole with the U.S. flag?

U.S. flag with corporate flagIs is ok to fly a company flag on the same flagpole with the U.S. flag? That’s a recurring question here at The Daily Flag, and the answer never changes:  No.

A prime example

The developers of this subdivision made two poor business decisions. They spent a lot of money on a towering flagpole so they could fly a huge, eye-catching American flag. It certainly caught my eye. If the American flag were the only flag flying on the pole, I wouldn’t bother writing this post. However, with their corporate flag flying underneath the American flag on the same halyard, they get their photograph and a dishonorable mention on my website instead.

Why is it wrong?

Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8, paragraph (i) of the U.S. Code clearly states:

§8. Respect for flag
(i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown. (Italics mine)

Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown. Please don’t tell me a corporate flag isn’t an advertising sign. It is. For the same amount of money, the property developers probably could have erected two smaller flagpoles—one for the U.S. flag, and one for the corporate flag of the developer. But the smaller flagpoles wouldn’t have been as highly visible from the busy elevated thoroughfare running alongside the subdivision.

It gets worse

The second bad business decision made by the developer of this subdivision is that the American flag is too large for the pole it is flying on, making it impossible to fly the flag at half-staff. It would brush against the model home, and landscaping. Businesses that like to attract attention with these big flags invariably make the same mistake: they put up a flag that is way out of proportion for the flag pole, and it is too big to be half-staffed.

Those who wrote and codified the Flag Code assumed that Americans of honor and goodwill would follow the statutes. What a shame that a business would choose their advertising over truly honoring the flag, when an appropriate display would have been so easy to achieve.

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National POW/MIA Recognition Day to be celebrated September 18, 2009

POW_MIA_flag The third Friday in September is honored as National POW/MIA Recognition Day.

The flag is flown in the full-staff position on this day. While the law addresses flying the POW/MIA flag on federal installations only (see the link above), civilians should fly the POW/MIA flag directly beneath the U.S. flag on the same pole. State flags should not be flown on the same pole on these occasions.

I am not a member of the National League of Families, but I think those who are would remind us all that is not an occasion of mourning. This is a day to be filled with hope and determination, and to remember that there is still much work to be done. From the League of Families website:

UPDATE:  September 2, 2009

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  There are now 1,731 US personnel listed by the Defense POW/MIA Office (DPMO) as missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.  The number of US personnel accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 852.  During the League’s 40th Anniversary Annual Meeting, a League member announced that she had just received confirmation from JPAC that remains recovered earlier had been identified as those of her brother, MSGT Donald C. Grella, USA, of Nebraska, listed KIA/BNR on December 28, 1965 in South Vietnam.  Also now accounted for from that same incident are WO2 Jesse D.  Phelps of Idaho and CPL Thomas Rice, Jr. of South Carolina, both also US Army and initially listed as KIA/BNR.  Three Air Force personnel whose names were released as accounted for are Capt Robert J. Edgar of Florida, listed MIA in Laos on 2/5/68, remains repatriated 5/27/97 and identified 4/28/09; Maj Curtis D. Miller of Texas, listed MIA in Laos on 3/29/72, remains repatriated 8/2/06 and identified 2/12/08; and LtCol Russell A. Poor of Indiana, listed MIA in North Vietnam on 2/4/67, remains repatriated 6/14/07 and identified 5/26/08.  To each of these families, the League offers understanding and the hope that these concrete answers bring long-awaited peace of mind.  Of the 1,731 men still missing, 90% were lost in Vietnam or areas of Laos and Cambodia under Vietnam’s wartime control.

You can help:  National League of Families

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Oh say can you sing—The Star-Spangled Banner

DKH_07 Last Friday I received an email alerting me to the National Anthem YouTube Singing Contest sponsored by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and USA Weekend Magazine!

My correspondent asked if I would share this information with The Daily Flag readers, and I am happy to do so. Entries for this contest will end on April 13.

The winner will be invited to perform the national anthem at the museum and at the Baltimore Orioles vs. Atlanta Braves game in Baltimore on Flag Day, June 14.

The links below will tell you how to enter the contest.

 

 

Long-time Daily Flag readers will know that I am a purist about our National Anthem, and if my advice is worth anything, then this is it: If you want to enter this contest, then sing the Star-Spangled Banner with all your heart, and all your soul. Tell the story like it was the first time anyone was hearing it, and take us back to that morning in Baltimore harbor.

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Ten flags fly, in “The Oregonian” flag contest

DKH_08 The Daily Flag previously linked here and here, to The Oregonian’s articles about its contest to design a new state flag for Oregon. From thousands of entries, the newspaper has chosen ten finalists for its readers to vote on, and those designs can be viewed at The Oregonian’s website.

My choice? I didn’t actually vote, because I don’t live in Oregon. But I like this one. It respects the past with a traditional, yet modern design. And it looks the same from both sides, which is important in Oregon.

Jaymes Walker flag designJaymes Walker , 55, Northeast Portland, a landscape designer
The process: “I purposefully kept this flag simple in order for it to represent all of Oregon.” What it means: The “O” stands for Oregon, and is doubled. The incoming stripes frame the letter and strengthen the image to show the strength and solidarity. Blue and gold, the state colors, represent the Pacific Ocean and western Oregon; and the high desert and wheat fields of eastern Oregon. Note that the colors could be reversed.

Hat Tip to Oregonian Ted Kaye, of NAVA—North American Vexillological Association.

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Blessings

Wild_turkey_eastern_us My husband’s grandfather, Pop, used to shoot a wild turkey every year for Thanksgiving, until he got too old to hunt.

The difference between putting a golden, succulent Butterball on the table, and putting a wild turkey on the table, is the difference between driving to the grocery store, or lying in wait, patient and ignoring all discomforts (and they are legion)—for the wily, wild turkey to stroll into your gunsight.

To cook a wild turkey, Pop skinned the whole bird and soaked it over-night in buttermilk. Then he wrapped it in bacon, with a cut up apple and onion on the inside, or a handful of chopped celery and green onions, and carefully roasted it. He was a free-style cook when it came to wild turkey, and it might vary from year to year.

He didn’t do all those fancy things that other cooks do to turkeys, except to put it on a handsome platter, with a well-sharpened knife and fork along side. And by “well-sharpened,” I mean you could do surgery with it. Hendrick men can sharpen a knife until the edge disappears into infinity.

No matter what else was on the table, we all took a serving of Pop’s turkey (you would have too). Would you like dark meat, or darker meat?  For me, it was a reminder of hard times, and good times. Hard times, you know, to find wild turkey on your plate.

Good times—dear God in Heaven! What a blessing—to have wild turkey on your plate.

Whatever is on your plate today, I hope you will Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

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Run for the Fallen honors four soldiers in Healing Field Memorial

Last month The Daily Flag received a question about flag precedence, etiquette and protocol, which is routine, but for the event in question, it was not.

It was for the “Run for the Fallen,” to the Healing Field Memorial at Patriot Park in Cathedral City, California, sponsored by the Cathedral City Rotary Club and Cathedral City.

The “run” was a motorcycle parade, lead by motorcyclists bearing four American flags in honor of four local soldiers who had fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There is a wealth of information about how to carry the flags in a parade, but when the flags are borne by motorcycle riders, extra care must be taken, and the members of these motorcycle riding clubs wanted to make sure they carried these flags of honor properly.

Vet Parade 2008

The Run for the Fallen motorcycle procession was held by a consortium of local motorcycle riding clubs, with riders on 175 motorcycles from The American Legion Riders of Palm Springs, the Desert Riders Association, and the Palm Springs Harley Owners Group.

The riding clubs carried the four U.S. flags in honor of SPC Jason Chappell, 1st Lt. Joshua M. Palmer,       PFC Ming Sun, and Corporal Jesus Gonzales, who were from the area in and around Cathedral City.

1 Run for the FallenDuring the Healing Field Memorial, the 4,248 names of American service men and women were read. The National Anthem was sung by legendary band leader Buddy Greco and his wife, Lezlie Anders.

The Cathedral City High School Symphonic Band, and the United States Marine Corps Band from the Air Ground Combat Center in Twenty-nine Palms performed.

Guest speaker was Gunnery Sgt. Christopher W. Cox, U.S. Marine Corps.

 

 

imagew2.aspxMore photographs can be seen at The Desert Riders Association website.