Wednesday, October 22, 2014

SHANNON: American flag deserves respect

By DAN SHANNON, Community Viewpoint | 6/27/2014

Independence Day is coming soon. I love this holiday. I love the pageantry and patriotic events. I’m proud of my country. I’m proud of my service to my country. I am even more proud of my Marine lieutenant daughter and her service to our country. And I love fireworks.

There is one display that you see a lot this time of year that I really don’t love: flags.

Independence Day is coming soon. I love this holiday. I love the pageantry and patriotic events. I’m proud of my country. I’m proud of my service to my country. I am even more proud of my Marine lieutenant daughter and her service to our country. And I love fireworks.

There is one display that you see a lot this time of year that I really don’t love: flags.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the American flag. I think it is beautiful. It represents the struggle and sacrifice our forefathers made to found our country. The field of stars lets all Americans know that they have a place. When I was a sailor, there was a morning and evening ritual called Colors. It was when the flag was raised or lowered. No matter where you were or what you were doing, when the alert sounded you stopped, faced the flag and saluted as it was raised or retired for the night. I looked forward to this daily ritual. I was both humbled and proud to stand at attention and raise my hand in respect to the symbol of our country.

The display I’m talking about are flags I see all too often — flags that are faded, torn, left out all night, disrespected. It makes me sad to see such blatant disregard. In truth, I have more respect for someone burning the flag in protest than I do those who hang it and forget it. At least the protester understands the importance and power of the symbol and is performing the desecration with a purpose. This form of speech, as provocative as it might be, is Constitutionally-protected. It’s the casual contempt and unknowing insult that sets my teeth on edge.

I believe in giving folks the benefit of the doubt though. So, for those who may be offering insult out of ignorance, I’ve consulted USFlag.org, a website dedicated to the flag of the United States of America. Here are some of the major rules and guidelines.

• The flag should be raised briskly and lowered slowly and ceremoniously. Ordinarily it should be displayed only between sunrise and sunset. It should be illuminated if displayed at night. The flag of the United States of America is saluted as it is hoisted and lowered. The salute is held until the flag is unsnapped from the halyard or through the last note of music, whichever is the longest.

• When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms. To store the flag it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously.

• When it is displayed from the same flagpole with another flag — of a state, community, society or Scout unit — the flag of the United States must always be at the top

• When carried in a procession, the flag should be to the right of the marchers. When other flags are carried, the flag of the United States may be centered in front of the others or carried to their right. When the flag passes in a procession, or when it is hoisted or lowered, all should face the flag and salute.

• To salute, all persons come to attention. Those in uniform give the appropriate formal salute. Citizens not in uniform salute by placing their right hand over the heart and men with head cover should remove it and hold it to left shoulder, hand over the heart.

• The flag should be cleaned and mended when necessary.

• When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner.

Now let us go and celebrate our collective birthday, our Independence Day, with joy.

Dan Shannon is an Ottawa resident.

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