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Old Glory continues to inspire and should be treated with respect

Betsy Ross spent countless hours stitching it. It inspired Francis Scott Key to write the “The Star Spangled Banner after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British Royal Navy ships in Chesapeake Bay during the Battle of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812, and our soldiers follow it into battle. For some, it might be the last thing they see before making the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Notwithstanding the above, it has been left outside in rain, sleet and snow. It has been stepped on, torn, burned, dropped, dragged and made into bikinis, ultimately devaluing its significance and perceived value. Very few Americans understand the rules for its proper display. “It,” of course, is the United States Flag.
Breaches in flag etiquette are nearly everywhere you look. Even in Johnson County, one doesn’t have to venture far to discover a tattered flag flapping in the wind. Perhaps it is just oversight, but when a reader brought it to my attention recently, I decided to research proper flag procedure in preparation for winter weather.
The most important thing to remember is that the flag, as a symbol of the nation, should be treated with utmost respect and dignity. The flag is usually flown outside from sunrise to sunset, however, if displayed at night, it should be properly illuminated. According to The Flag Code, which formalizes and unifies the traditional ways in which we give respect to the flag, “all-weather” flags should be flown in inclement weather.
When attending our son’s graduation from Air Force basic military training last summer, we had the privilege of witnessing the daily retreat at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. This symbolic and moving ceremony not only signals the end of the official duty day, but also serves as a ceremony for paying respect to the flag. Civilians who are admitted to a military base are considered guests of the base, and as guests they are required to adhere to the same rules and regulations as the military personnel and the families who live and work on base.
We were advised in regards to proper protocol during retreat before we visited. If outside, we were to stop and face the flag, or the music if the flag itself, was not visible. During the sounding of “Retreat” everyone is to stand at parade rest. Those in uniform come to attention and salute during the playing of the National Anthem. If in civilian clothes, protocol is to come to attention, remove hat, if applicable, and it is suggested that you place your right hand over your heart. Talking during colors or retreat is forbidden and considered extremely disrespectful. If driving a vehicle and see a flag ceremony or hear the music, it is asked that one stop and sit at attention until the music ends. Any passengers must also remain silent.
Since those in uniform daily reverence the flag, we, as United States citizens, should at the very least not allow it to fly in disarray. When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be replaced. The old flag should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner. Most American Legion Posts regularly conduct a dignified flag burning ceremony, often on Flag Day.
While it is the right of every American to proudly display the Flag of the United States at their home, their business, and elsewhere, remember to keep it in repair so that proper respect is given. When one chooses to display “Old Glory,” they are informing the world of they are proud to live in the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.” Long may she wave.
To read the Flag Code in its entirety, visit www.usflag.org or write: Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954 and request a copy.