What is Flag Day?

140th US Flag Day poster. 1777-1917. The birth...
140th US Flag Day poster. 1777-1917. The birthday of the stars and stripes, June 14th, 1917. ‘Tis the Star Spangled Banner, oh, long may it wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!” Library of Congress description: “Poster showing a man raising the American flag, with a minuteman cheering and an eagle flying above.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you know that today is Flag Day in the United States? Further it is also the day set aside to celebrate the Army’s birthday (June 14, 1775). It is a day, not a federal holiday, that many of us are probably not aware of, nor understand why we have a day dedicated to our flag. Perhaps this is perpetuated by a mixture of the lack of societal teaching on the day and the fact that no body has the day off thereby our daily lives are not interrupted; unless you live in Pennsylvania which recognizes it as a state holiday. (If the post office doesn’t get it off, then it is not a holiday right?)

So what is this day all about?

Flag Day commemorates that time in our history when the Second Continental Congress resolved to adopt the flag of the United States in 1777. Since that time Old Glory has undergone 26 modifications; starting with 13 stars in 1777, 15 in 1794, 20 by 1818, and the final star was added when Hawaii was added to the Union in 1959.

Although the flag was adopted (and there is some debate as to if the flag adopted was indeed created by Betsy Ross) in 1777, the notion of a day of celebration to commemorate the day was not until 1861 when George Morris of Hartford, Connecticut, who encouraged his city to celebrate the day. It was not until 1916 when President Wilson issued a proclamation and 1949 when Congress, under President Harry Truman, passed an official Act that Flag Day became what we know today. However, there were attempts through our history to make Flag Day an official observance.

In 1885, Bernard J. Cigrand held the first reorganized observance of Flag Day in Waubeka, Wisconsin, at Stony Hill School (which has been restored). The American Flag Day Association of Western Pennsylvania was founded by William T. Kerr of the Collier Township, Pennsylvania, in 1888. In 1893, a descendant of Benjamin Franklin, Elizabeth Gillespie petitioned to have a resolution passed in Pennsylvania that would require all public buildings to fly the American flag. Finally, Pennsylvania became the first state to make Flag Day a holiday in 1937.

Flag Day may not be as big as Independence Day or other national holidays, but its significance for our country cannot be overstated. Our flag has become a symbol of freedom to the world. Wherever our flag flies, people know that hope and freedom are on the horizon. The flag has been a symbol of great unity for our nation, especially after the Civil War. Men and women have given much in order to protect what is symbolized by our flag and it with great pride that we should fly it about our homes, businesses, and public spaces.

You may know the song “Ragged Old Flag” performed by Johnny Cash. I would like to produce the lyrics here and allow the story it tells to be my concluding thought.

I walked through a county courthouse square
On a park bench, an old man was sittin’ there.
I said, “Your old court-house is kinda run down,
He said, “Naw, it’ll do for our little town”.
I said, “Your old flag pole is leaned a little bit,
And that’s a ragged old flag you got hangin’ on it”.
He said, “Have a seat”, and I sat down,
“Is this the first time you’ve been to our little town”
I said, “I think it is”
He said “I don’t like to brag, but we’re kinda proud of
That Ragged Old Flag
“You see, we got a little hole in that flag there,
When Washington took it across the Delaware.
And It got powder burned the night Francis Scott Key sat watching it,
Writing “Say Can You See”
It got a rip in New Orleans, with Packingham & Jackson
Tugging at its seams.
And It almost fell at the Alamo
Beside the Texas flag,
But she waved on though.
She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville,
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill.
There was Robert E. Lee and Beauregard and Bragg,
And the south wind blew hard on
That Ragged Old Flag
“On Flanders Field in World War I,
She got a big hole from a Bertha Gun,
She turned blood-red in World War II
She hung limp, and low, a time or two,
She was in Korea, Vietnam, She went where she was sent
By her Uncle Sam.
She waved from our ships upon the briny foam
And now they’ve about quit wavin’ back here at home
In her own good land here She’s been abused,
She’s been burned, dishonored, denied an’ refused,
And the government for which she stands
Has been scandalized throughout out the land.
And she’s getting thread bare, and she’s wearin’ thin,
But she’s in good shape, for the shape she’s in.
Cause she’s been through the fire before
And i believe she can take a whole lot more.
“So we raise her up every morning
And we bring her down slow every night,
We don’t let her touch the ground,
And we fold her up right.
On second thought
I *do* like to brag
Cause I’m mighty proud of
That Ragged Old Flag
 From the Desk,
Mr. Bluebaugh