In America, we celebrate Flag Day on June 14. Although the date holds great significance, it is not an official national holiday. Only one state, Pennsylvania, has designated the day as an official state holiday.
The history of the establishment of Flag Day is interesting. As the story goes, a Wisconsin teacher named Bernard Cigrand established the practice and originated the idea of a Flag Day at his small, rural school in 1885. The idea was to honor the flag and learn about its history, its meaning, and about flag etiquette; and to instill in his students a respect for the flag code and nurture patriotism. Even though Cigrand quit teaching and started pulling teeth (moving from Wisconsin to Illinois to practice dentistry), the idea and movement gained momentum.
Then, in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed June 14 as Flag Day. The date is significant because it was on June 14, 1777, that the first flag was adopted by the Continental Congress as a shining symbol of a new nation, the United States of America, which had been established by the Declaration of Independence about a year earlier on July 4, 1776. On Aug. 3, 1949, the United States Congress acted to establish National Flag Day as June 14. The date is also recognized as the birthday of the U.S. Army.
As a young child I was taught to respect the flag as a sacred symbol of our nation. My father, a former Marine and Korean War veteran, was very active in the local American Legion. He adopted the mission of ensuring that every local veteran’s grave marker would be adorned with an American flag each Memorial Day and on Flag Day. On these days, my brother and I would be awakened from our sleep, very early, to accompany Dad to several local small-town cemeteries that dotted the landscape of the rural northeastern Illinois area where I was raised. Our job was to place a U.S. flag on the grave marker of every veteran. Of course, at the time, we were not enamored with the idea. But there was no way either of us was going to argue with our former Marine dad. It actually became a great memory and a bonding time with Dad. Plus, I learned valuable realities regarding the freedom that I enjoyed. Thank you, Dad, for teaching me that our freedom had been purchased at a high cost. The lives of dozens of local citizens had been lost protecting my freedom and hundreds of others had served and continue to serve to keep us free.
When a United States flag is folded properly, there are 13 folds made. Each of the folds represents a principle on which our nation was founded. The first fold represents our flag as a symbol of life. The second fold is a symbol of our belief in eternal life. The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of our country. The fourth fold represents our trust in God, turning to him in times of peace as well as war. The list goes on. Your Flag Day assignment from this retired history teacher is to locate the rest of the fold meanings as a commemoration of Flag Day on June 14, 2021. It is worth the effort to read, and easy to find with a simple Google search.
It has been a tough year since Flag Day a year ago. Yes indeed, now more than ever, we need to remember the words to one of my favorite songs — You’re a grand old flag, you’re a high-flying flag, and forever in peace may you wave. You’re the emblem of the land I love, the home of the free and the brave.
Fly the American flag high on Flag Day 2021 and every day.