Ceremony for Disposal of Unserviceable Flags
Thursday July 25 at 7:10 pm
If you have a US Flag for this ceremony please bring them to the fair office Thursday July 25 before 6 pm.
According to the VFW Web site, at www.vfw.org, suggested procedures for disposing of a faded, worn flag are:
1. The flag should be folded in its customary manner.
2. It is important that the fire be fairly large and of sufficient intensity to ensure complete burning of the flag.
3. Place the flag on the fire.
4. The individual(s) can come to attention, salute the flag, recite the Pledge of Allegiance and have a brief period of silent reflection.
5. After the flag is completely consumed, the fire should then be safely extinguished and the ashes buried.
To receive a free copy of the VFW’s “Our Flag” brochure, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Flag Brochure; VFW Citizenship Education Dept.; VFW National Headquarters; 406 W. 34th St.; Kansas City, MO 64111.
The Ceremony for Disposal of Unserviceable Flags is outlined in Resolution No. 440, passed by the 19th National Convention of The American Legion in New York, Sept. 20-23, 1937. The ceremony has been an integral part of American Legion ritual since that date. The resolution reads as follows:
WHEREAS, Americanism has been and should continue to be one of the major programs of The American Legion; and
WHEREAS, The observance of proper respect for the Flag of our country and the education of our citizenry in the proper courtesies to be paid the Flag is an essential element of such Americanism program; and
WHEREAS, It is fitting and proper that Flags which have been used for the decoration of graves on Memorial Day be collected after such service, inspected, and worn and unserviceable Flags be condemned and properly destroyed; and
WHEREAS, The approved method of disposing of unserviceable Flags has long been that they be destroyed by burning, but no ritual for such destruction or ceremony in connection therewith has been adopted by The American Legion or included in its official manual of Ceremonies; therefore be it
RESOLVED, By The American Legion in National Convention assembled in New York City, September 20-23, 1937, that the ritual submitted herewith be adopted for use by The American Legion and that it be made the official ceremony for the destruction of unserviceable American Flags and to be included as such in the Manual of Ceremonies, Revised, of The American Legion.
The purpose of The American Legion in adopting this ceremony was to encourage proper respect for the Flag of the United States and to provide for disposal of unserviceable flags in a dignified manner. Resolution No. 373, approved by the National Convention of The American Legion meeting in Chicago, Illinois, September 18-20, 1944, re-emphasized the purpose of proper public Flag disposal ceremonies and encouraged greater use of this ceremony by The American Legion. The resolution adopted is as follows:
WHEREAS, Our Flag which we love and cherish
WHEREAS, In a proper service of tribute and memory and love, our Flag becomes faded and worn and must be honorably retired from life; and
WHEREAS, Such retirement of Flags that have become unserviceable may be done in public with respectful and honorable rites: therefore be it
RESOLVED, That The American Legion in convention assembled at Chicago, Illinois, September 18-20, 1944, urge that the National Headquarters use all means to foster and promote through the proper channels, the greater use of the official American Legion Ceremony for the Disposal of Unserviceable Flags as outlined in the Manual of Ceremonies; and be it further
RESOLVED, That Flag Day, June 14, be recommended as the most appropriate day on which to annually hold this ceremony.
A set of rules of civilian flag courtesy popularly known as the Flag Code was first formulated by the National Flag Conference meeting in Washington, June 14-15, 1923. The Flag Code was an attempt by prominent patriotic organizations to collect together in one instrument statutes, executive orders, and rules of established custom and usage relating to the U.S. flag. On Dec. 22, 1942, the 77th Congress approved Public Law 829, giving official sanction to most of the provisions of the Flag Code. This public law established the Flag Code in Title 36, U.S. Code, Chapter 10, Sections 173-178, including the Flag Code § 176(k) on disposal of unserviceable flags.
We are of the opinion that The American Legion’s Ceremony for Disposal of Unserviceable Flags is a dignified tribute to the U.S. flag and to its symbolism. We therefore conclude that this ceremony is both legal and proper, and that it is an effective instrument for promoting enhanced respect for the U.S. flag. Following is the entire ceremony as it appears in the “Manual of Ceremonies.” We encourage your use of the ceremony on Flag Day, June 14, on an annual basis. By doing so, you will enhance respect to the flag in your community and provide a much-needed service to those who have flags needing to be retired.
The federal flag code says the universal custom is to display the U.S. flag from sunrise to sunset on buildings and stationary flagstaffs in the open, but when a patriotic effect is desired the flag may be displayed 24-hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness. Also, the U.S. flag should not be displayed when the weather is inclement, except when an all-weather flag is displayed.
Displaying the Flag:
On Same Staff
U.S. flag at peak, above any other flag.
U.S. flag goes to its own right. Flags of other nations are flown at same height.
U.S. flag to marchers right (observer’s left).
On Speaker’s Platform
When displayed with a speaker’s platform, it must be above and behind the speaker. If mounted on a staff it is on the speaker’s right.
Never use the flag for decoration. Use bunting with the blue on top, then white, then red.
All persons present in uniform should render the military salute. Members of the armed forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute. All other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.
Over a Street Union (stars) face north or east depending on the direction of the street.
On special days, the flag may be flown at half-staff. On Memorial Day it is flown at half-staff until noon and then raised.
Do not let the flag touch the ground.
Do not fly flag upside down unless there is an emergency.
Do not carry the flag flat, or carry things in it.
Do not use the flag as clothing.
Do not store the flag where it can get dirty.
Do not use it as a cover.
Do not fasten it or tie it back. Always allow it to fall free.
Do not draw on, or otherwise mark the flag.
Note: Please contact your local VFW Post if you’d like assistance or more information on proper flag disposal.
“Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation. “
The resolution gave no instruction as to how many points the stars should have, nor how the stars should be arranged on the blue union. Consequently, some flags had stars scattered on the blue field without any specific design, some arranged the stars in rows, and some in a circle. The first Navy Stars and Stripes had the stars arranged in staggered formation in alternate rows of threes and twos on a blue field. Other Stars and Stripes flags had stars arranged in alternate rows of four, five and four. Some stars had six points while others had eight.
Strong evidence indicates that Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was responsible for the stars in the U.S. flag. At the time that the flag resolution was adopted, Hopkinson was the Chairman of the Continental Navy Board’s Middle Department. Hopkinson also helped design other devices for the Government including the Great Seal of the United States. For his services, Hopkinson submitted a letter to the Continental Admiralty Board asking “whether a Quarter Cask of the public Wine will not be a proper & reasonable Reward for these Labours of Fancy and a suitable Encouragement to future Exertions of a like Nature.” His request was turned down since the Congress regarded him as a public servant.
Early Stars and Stripes
During the Revolutionary War, several patriots made flags for our new Nation. Among them were Cornelia Bridges, Elizabeth (Betsy) Ross, and Rebecca Young, all of Pennsylvania, and John Shaw of Annapolis, Maryland. Although Betsy Ross, the best known of these persons, made flags for 50 years, there is no proof that she made the first Stars and Stripes. It is known that she made flags for the Pennsylvania State Navy in 1777. The flag popularly known as the “Betsy Ross flag,” which arranged the stars in a circle, did not appear until the early 1790’s.
The claims of Betsy Ross were first brought to the attention of the public in 1870 by one of her grandsons, William J. Canby. In a paper he read before the meeting of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Canby stated:
“It is not tradition, it is report from the lips of the principal participator in the transaction, directly told not to one or two, but a dozen or more living witnesses, of which I myself am one, though but a little boy when I heard it. . . . Colonel Ross with Robert Morris and General Washington, called on Mrs. Ross and told her they were a committee of Congress, and wanted her to make a flag from the drawing, a rough one, which, upon her suggestions, was redrawn by General Washington in pencil in her back parlor. This was prior to the Declaration of Independence. I fix the date to be during Washington’s visit to Congress from New York in June, 1776 when he came to confer upon the affairs of the Army, the flag being no doubt, one of these affairs.”
Grand Union Flag
The first flag of the colonists to have any resemblance to the present Stars and Stripes was the Grand Union Flag, sometimes referred to as the Congress Colors, the First Navy Ensign, and the Cambridge Flag. Its design consisted of 13 stripes, alternately red and white, representing the Thirteen Colonies, with a blue field in the upper left-hand corner bearing the red cross of St. George of England with the white cross of St. Andrew of Scotland. As the flag of the revolution it was used on many occasions. It was first flown by the ships of the Colonial Fleet on the Delaware River. On December 3, 1775, it was raised aboard Captain Esek Hopkin’s flagship Alfred by John Paul Jones, then a Navy lieutenant. Later the flag was raised on the liberty pole at Prospect Hill, which was near George Washington’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was our unofficial national flag on July 4, 1776, Independence Day; and it remained the unofficial national flag and ensign of the Navy until June 14, 1777, when the Continental Congress authorized the Stars and Stripes.
Interestingly, the Grand Union Flag also was the standard of the British East India Company. It was only by degrees that the Union Flag of Great Britain was discarded. The final breach between the Colonies and Great Britain brought about the removal of the British Union from the canton of our striped flag and the substitution of stars on a blue field.
15 Stars and Stripes
When two new States were admitted to the Union (Kentucky and Vermont), a resolution was adopted in January of 1794, expanding the flag to 15 stars and 15 stripes. This flag was the official flag of our country from 1795 to 1818, and was prominent in many historic events. It inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the bombardment of Fort McHenry; it was the first flag to be flown over a fortress of the Old World when American Marine and Naval forces raised it above the pirate stronghold in Tripoli on April 27, 1805; it was the ensign of American forces in the Battle of Lake Erie in September of 1813; and it was flown by General Jackson in New Orleans in January of 1815.
However, realizing that the flag would become unwieldy with a stripe for each new State, Capt. Samuel C. Reid, USN, suggested to Congress that the stripes remain 13 in number to represent the Thirteen Colonies, and that a star be added to the blue field for each new State coming into the Union. Accordingly, on April 4, 1818, President Monroe accepted a bill requiring that the flag of the United States have a union of 20 stars, white on a blue field, and that upon admission of each new State into the Union one star be added to the union of the flag on the fourth of July following its date of admission. The 13 alternating red and white stripes would remain unchanged. This act succeeded in prescribing the basic design of the flag, while assuring that the growth of the Nation would be properly symbolized.
Eventually, the growth of the country resulted in a flag with 48 stars upon the admission of Arizona and New Mexico in 1912. Alaska added a 49th in 1959, and Hawaii a 50th star in 1960. With the 50-star flag came a new design and arrangement of the stars in the union, a requirement met by President Eisenhower in Executive Order No. 10834, issued August 21, 1959. To conform with this, a national banner with 50 stars became the official flag of the United States. The flag was raised for the first time at 12:01 a.m. on July 4, 1960, at the Fort McHenry National Monument in Baltimore, Maryland.
Traditionally a symbol of liberty, the American flag has carried the message of freedom to many parts of the world. Sometimes the same flag that was flying at a crucial moment in our history has been flown again in another place to symbolize continuity in our struggles for the cause of liberty.
One of the most memorable is the flag that flew over the Capitol in Washington on December 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked. This same flag was raised again on December 8 when war was declared on Japan, and three days later at the time of the declaration of war against Germany and Italy. President Roosevelt called it the “flag of liberation” and carried it with him to the Casablanca Conference and on other historic occasions. It flew from the mast of the U.S.S. Missouri during the formal Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945.
Another historic flag is the one that flew over Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. It also was present at the United Nations Charter meeting in San Francisco, California, and was used at the Big Three Conference at Potsdam, Germany. This same flag flew over the White House on August 14, 1945, when the Japanese accepted surrender terms.
In a 1917 Flag Day message, President Wilson said:
“This flag, which we honor and under which we serve, is the emblem of our unity, our power, our thought and purpose as a nation. It has no other character than that which we give it from generation to generation. The choices are ours. It floats in majestic silence above the hosts that execute those choices, whether in peace or in war. And yet, though silent, it speaks to us-speaks to us of the past, of the men and women who went before us, and of the records they wrote upon it. “We celebrate the day of its birth; and from its birth until now it has witnessed a great history, has floated on high the symbol of great events, of a great plan of life worked out by a great people…. “Woe be to the man or group of men that seeks to stand in our way in this day of high resolution when every principle we hold dearest is to be vindicated and made secure for the salvation of the nation. We are ready to plead at the bar of history, and our flag shall wear a new luster. Once more we shall make good with our lives and fortunes the great faith to which we were born, and a new glory shall shine in the face of our people.”