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Thursday
Jun142018

Flag Day Honors Our Nation's Symbol of Freedom and Fairness

From Lancaster (Pa.) Online

Today is National Flag Day, which observes the adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed a nationwide observance of Flag Day on May 30, 1916. Thirty-three years later, President Harry Truman signed an act of Congress designating the 14th day of June every year as National Flag Day.

Credit Bernard J. Cigrand with conceiving that which we honor today.

He was a 19-year-old teacher at the one-room Stony Hill School in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin, when he placed a 10-inch, 38-star flag on his desk and directed students to write essays about Old Glory and its significance, according to the National Flag Day Foundation.

The date was June 14, 1885.

Cigrand, who later became a dentist, was steadfast in his mission to create a National Flag Day. Although the idea caught on, the day remained a yearly state and local observance for decades. Cigrand would live to see Wilson’s proclamation, but not the signing of federal legislation in 1949 to annually honor the American flag and all that it represents.

The Father of Flag Day, as Cigrand came to be known, surely would have delighted in today’s official observance. Even more uplifting would have been the knowledge that our flag continues to inspire new generations of Americans and other citizens of the world.

A steadfast symbol of freedom, liberty and justice, the flag easily expanded with the United States, finding space on its red-white-and-blue fabric to add 37 stars to the original 13. The mere glimpse of its colors invokes feelings of hope for immigrants and refugees seeking a new and better life here.

Cigrand would want to know that we Americans still salute the flag. That in its presence, we remove hats and place hands over hearts. That we of all religious beliefs, races, ethnicities and political ideologies pledge our allegiance to it, and sing of its glory. That soldiers and sailors guard it in peacetime, and carry it with them into battle.

He would surely want to know that the American flag waving high above the U.S. Capitol also adorns porches, flower pots, businesses, schools and driveways from Hawaii and Alaska — two stars added since Cigrand’s death — to boats docked at Key West, Florida.

The flag, we would tell him, is painted onto the weathered planks of old barns, and sewn into clothing. It leads parades, and flies over sports venues.

Spread full, the flag drapes the caskets of veterans and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this nation and its ideals. Carefully folded and tightly held, it offers comfort and peace when clutched in the arms of a grieving parent or spouse.

The American flag that withstood British firepower at Fort McHenry, fighting on Iwo Jima beaches and the 9/11 terrorist attacks also made its way to the moon — the latter a fact that might surprise even the Father of Flag Day.

He would need to know that the Stars and Stripes has been dragged and shredded and torched in fury and protest.

Yet even in this exhausting and polarizing political time, Old Glory is consistently strong and all-American — waving high above those on the extreme left, those to the far right, and everyone in between. Just as it embodies our imperfections and our struggles, the flag represents the potential in our best collective self.

“Sure I wave the American flag,’’ actor John Wayne is quoted as saying. “Do you know a better flag to wave?”

No, we don’t.

Our flag waves not only when we step with clear and principled vision and purpose but also when we stumble and then work to regain our footing. The flag is our young republic of nearly 242 years — “the great experiment,’’ as George Washington called it.

America’s flag is our heritage. It is our present. It is a symbol of the hope, grace, generosity, freedom, fairness and goodness to which we aspire.

“O say can you see?”

Yes, we can, and we hope that you can, too.

How to display and care for the U.S. flag: www.legion.org/flag/code

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