Today is Flag Day, the 68th day so designated since President Harry Truman signed an Act of Congress in 1949 making June 14 National Flag Day. Although it's not an official national holiday, Flag Day is observed by many organizations with special ceremonies, and U.S. Presidents encourage residents to fly the flag and consider its meaning to us as a nation.
President Truman was a member of the BPOE - Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, which had in 1907 adopted a resolution designating June 14 as Flag Day. The Grand Lodge of the Order made observance of Flag Day mandatory for all members in 1911. Allegiance to the flag is also a membership requirement.
In Sumter, Sumter Elks Lodge 855 and American Legion Post 15 will both hold Flag Day ceremonies.
American Legion Adjutant Nick Nero said Post 15 has long held a ceremony honoring the flag on each June 14. At 6 p.m. today on the stage beside the Fair Memorial Building on Artillery Drive, Legion members will hold their traditional flag disposal ceremony, in accordance with the U.S. flag code, Nero said.
That protocol calls for flags that are too tattered to be flown to be disposed of in a respectful manner, preferably by burning, which is the method Post 15 uses.
Nero said each year on Memorial Day, the post places U.S. flags on the graves of area veterans, "and when we do, we remove the flags placed the previous year. This year, we removed 4,600 flags. We do this in conjunction with the Sumter County Veterans Association."
Those flags, along with the flag from Post 15's flagpole and flags "civilians left in our drop box for dilapidated and faded flags" will be destroyed.
The ceremony, Nero said, is a "very simple one. (Post 15) Commander Jim Morris will inspect the flags to be sure they are indeed too tattered to be used." There will be a short prayer, and the first vice commander, Peter St. Onge, will assist in burning the flags, as the Call to Colors is played.
Only a few of the flags will be burned during the ceremony, Nero said, adding "The rest will be burned in a private ceremony later."
The ashes of the flags will be buried.
Nero said the public is invited to attend the ceremony.
The Sumter Elks Lodge also invites the public to its Flag Day ceremony, which will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday. Exalted Ruler Johnny Raffield said the ceremony will be held under the pavilion across from the main lodge building at 1100 W. Liberty St. In case of rain, the program will be moved inside the lodge.
During the short ceremony, the Elks will speak briefly about the flag, and the lodge's Boy Scout troop will then burn the unusable flags. Following the ceremony, refreshments will be served in the lodge. There is no charge.
Since June 14 is a day to think about the U.S. flag's importance to the country and individual Americans, it seems a good time to learn more about it.
FLAG DAY QUIZ
1. When a flag is too tattered to be flown, it should be disposed of by:
a. Wrapping it carefully in white cotton cloth and placing it in a recycling container
b. Burning it in a special ceremony
c. Burying it in a national cemetery
d. Turning it in to the commanding officer of a military installation
e. There is no special protocol for its disposal
2. True or false? — The flag should only be dipped to salute U.S. Presidents, past and present.
3. True or false? — The flag should be displayed at night only during national emergencies.
4. The U.S. flag should touch the ground only when:
a. It is buried on the coffin of a U.S. veteran
b. It is being hidden from an enemy
c. It has been damaged
5. The top and bottom stripes on the U.S. flag are:
a. Top red, bottom white
b. Top white, bottom red
c. Both red
d. Both white
6. When the flag is passing in a parade or review, civilians should
b. Stand at attention with their arms at their sides
c. Do nothing
d. Face the flag and place their hands over their hearts
e. Begin singing “She’s a Grand Old Flag”
7. How many official versions of the flag have there been?
8. How many flags are standing on the moon?
9. Flag Day, June 14, is also:
a. George Washington’s birthday
b. Betsy Ross’ birthday
c. The 242nd anniversary of the U.S. Army’s founding
d. The date of the U.S.’ first moon landing in 1969
e. The beginning date of the federal government’s fiscal year
10. Flag Day is an official state holiday only in:
d. New Hampshire
Flag Quiz Answers
2. False. The flag should never be dipped.
3. False. It may be flown at night if illuminated.
8. a – Six flags have been placed on the moon, but the first, placed by Neil Armstrong, has fallen.
9. c – The Continental Congress authorized enlistment of riflemen on June 14, 1775, to serve the United Colonies for one year.