The origins of Flag Day can be traced to June 14, 1923, when the American Legion led a meeting in Washington, D.C., attended by many civic, military and patriotic organizations to establish procedures for displaying the American flag.
During the meeting, the National Flag Code was adopted, based on Army and Navy practices. In 1942, Congress passed a joint resolution to make the Flag Code a law. Congress passed a resolution in June 1966 declaring the week of June 14 as National Flag Week, calling on Americans to display the Stars and Stripes during that week.
Every June 14 is celebrated as Flag Day. The holiday is celebrated by Americans and patriots far and wide, but has a special meaning to those men and women of the armed services who have sacrificed to uphold the American Flag.
“The flag is something that as a veteran we gear our entire military service around,” said Paul Bennett, former Post Commander and historian for American Legion Post 642. “That flag represents our country and all the people in the country. So, when we see that flag, it uplifts us. It uplifts our spirit. To me it is everything.”
Although it is a law, there are no penalties and the Flag Code is a voluntary guide for showing respect to the U.S. flag. Forty-seven states have their own laws with penalties that prohibit desecration of the flag or its use for advertising or publicity.
“Reflect back to Iwo Jima and when the Marines raised that flag. That meant a heck of a lot to those guys down on the beaches fighting to protect our way of life,” Bennett said. “They saw that flag and knew that’s what they were fighting for. That flag is America to me.”
When a flag has served its life, it should never be disposed of as refuse. While a private ceremony to discretely burn a flag is acceptable, the American Legion offers proper flag disposal free of charge.
“They can bring all American flags that are worn out or tattered down to the American Legion every day from noon to 8 p.m.,” Bennett said. “Any other flags, people tend to bring us Missouri flags and that kind of stuff, they can be destroyed in the trash. Only the American Flag must be properly disposed of.”
As part of Flag Day, Americans across the nation will “Pause for the Pledge” at 7 p.m. EST, 6 p.m. locally, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. In June 1985 President Ronald Reagan signed Public Law 99-54 recognizing that event as part of National Flag Day activities.
Some important points of the Flag Code include:
• The U.S. flag should be displayed from sunrise to sunset, unless it is well lit during the darkness.
• The U.S. flag should always be placed above other flags and pennants. There is one exception during a special Navy ceremony at sea.
• On a stage, the U.S. flag should always be placed behind the speaker and to his/her right.
• When hanging the U.S. flag vertically or horizontally from a wall or window, the canton, or union, should be at the top right of the flag. When you face the flag, it should be on your left.
• On Memorial Day, the U.S. flag is flown at half staff until noon, and then raised until sunset.
• The president of the United States, governors and limited other government officials may direct the U.S. flag to be flown at half staff.
• The U.S. flag should not be allowed to touch the ground, but if it does, you are not required to destroy it as long as it is still suitable for display.
• Never use a U.S. flag to cover a statue or monument or drape the flag over the hood, top, sides or back of a vehicle, train or boat.
• The U.S. flag should not be used as wearing apparel, including costumes or athletic uniforms, bedding or drapery.
• Every schoolhouse should display the U.S. flag during school days.
• The U.S. flag should never be used for advertising purposes.
For more information on the history of Flag Day and an online copy of the Flag Code visit usflag.org or the American Legion website at legion.org/flag.