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From a beat-up piano in Alaska, to the city of Paris

Celebrating America’s Freedoms is an educational release from the Public and Intergovernmental Affairs Division of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Each of the five branches of our American military has its own special song. Here’s the story.



Military songs inspire troops, preserve tradition

Each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces maintains its own military marching band to inspire troops and preserve tradition. Though they now serve ceremonial functions, these bands were once an integral element on the battlefield.

To increase the morale and courage of the men, bands would march in front of formations as they entered battle. Yet, as the number of musicians dwindled, commanders delegated marching bands to the rear of the formation, behind the combat-ready troops. Today, bands are no longer involved in armed conflict, but continue to inspire troops through song or hymn that represent the individual histories and traditions of America’s Armed Forces.


Continue reading From a beat-up piano in Alaska, to the city of Paris

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Military flag code manuals—and more

dkh_06In the course of my research about flags, I frequently use the flag manuals from the Armed Services—Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. You might find them useful too.

U.S. Air Force flag manual
(91 pages PDF)

U.S. Marine Corps flag manual (71 pages PDF)

U.S. Army flag manual (82 pages PDF)

U.S. Navy flag manual (106 pages PDF).

U.S. Coast Guard uses the Navy’s NTP 13 (B) with this additional material.

Nautical flag etiquette and protocol for civilians is addressed by the U.S. Power Squadrons, and may be found in detail here. Maritime or nautical etiquette can be quite different from ordinary civilian flag code, so this is so interesting for those of us who are land-locked.

If I have made any egregious errors with this material, don’t fuss and fume about it, but please, drop me a note.

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Historic Korean military flag goes on display

The Daily Flag carried the first part of this story in October of last year.


March 31, SEOUL, South Korea — An old Korean military flag is shown to the press on March 31 at the National Palace Museum of Korea in central Seoul, prior to its public exhibition from April 1. The flag was seized by the U.S. Navy during a battle at Gwangseong Fort on Ganghwa island west of Seoul in 1871 and returned to Korea in October of last year. (from Yonhap News)

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A salute to Boy Scouts

Boy Scouts insigniaOn August 1, 2007, it will have been 100 years since Lord Robert S.S. Baden-Powell assembled 21 boys at the world’s first Boy Scout camp at Brownsea Island in England. That’s quite an anniversary. What a legacy for Baden-Powell. What a legacy for us all.

During the next seven days, Larry and I will both write more about Scouting, but I want to jump right in and tell you something quite personal. Thanks to Scouting, my son knows how to tie knots that stay tied.

That’s right … Knots. He knows which knot is exactly right for the need, and how to tie it. Bends and hitches—oh I don’t know what all—and those knobby knots on the end, if you want one. But he can do a fine back-weave to cleanly finish the end of a rope and put a nice eye on the other end. I have one in my car that he made about ten years ago. It’s just the right size, and we use it all the time.

When he joined the Navy, the knot in his uniform neckerchief looked right from the get-go. In fact, it was so good that someone stole it. Twice. In the spirit of teamwork (and to save money), he taught his fellow fumble-fingered recruits how to tie a classic square knot, and if that failed, he tied it for them. It saved the whole company a lot of grief during basic training because those recruit training instructors are surprisingly fussy about neckerchiefs.

Bowline knot

Bowline knot

He tied a lot of knots during his years in the Navy, and still does: boating, camping, climbing, back-packing, fishing, search-and-rescue. Useful things—knots. It was worth eight years of Scouting, just for his knot-tying skills.

When he took his bride on their first (and only, I think) back-packing trip, he insisted that she learn how to tie a bowline, the easiest and best one for her to learn. “If I fall over a cliff, you’ll use this knot to rescue me,” he told her. He made her practice the knot over and over again—in the dark, behind her back, standing on her head, one-handed, and in a cold shower for all I know. But she can tie a bowline.

Robert Baden-Powell would be pleased.