Flag Day: Fly the colors

Members of Holt’s Scout Troop 532 and Cub Scout Pack 532 prepare a flag for retirement during a joint ceremony here November 2020. (Troop 532 photo)

HOLT, Fla., June 14, 202—Today is Flag Day and the beginning of National Flag Week when all citizens are called upon to fly the American flag.

On this day in 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution stating that “the flag of the United States be 13 stripes, alternate red and white,” and the “union be 13 stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

And for the 244 years since then, the United States has been flying the red, white and blue.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation designating June 14 as Flag Day. President Harry S. Truman made it an official annual recognition day when he signed Congress’ joint resolution into law in 1949.

The 50-star flag we fly today was designed in the 1950s by 17-year-old Ohio student Bob Heft as a class project. At the time, Alaska and Hawaii had not yet been admitted to the Union.

After both states joined the union, Heft sent his flag to his congressman who presented it to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The president selected the teen’s design in 1960.

Heft wound up with an A in history.

Flag Code

Rules for handling and displaying the U.S. flag are defined by Title 4, Chapters 1-10 of the U.S. Code, also known as the Flag Code. It’s considered an advisory code because it does not state penalties for violation.

When a new state is admitted into the Union, a star is added to the field of blue and takes effect the next July Fourth.

The Flag Code stipulates proper display and handling of the American flag. For instance, Section 8 states that the flag is not to be worn or used as a bedspread or drapes.

Design, marks, pictures, drawings or advertisements are not supposed to be attached to the flag, either printed, painted or otherwise affixed to it.

By code, the flag is only supposed to be displayed from sunrise to sunset unless properly illuminated at night, and it should be displayed on or near all public buildings, at polling places on election day and at schools.

To retire the colors

Section 8 of the U.S. Code also specifies that a flag no longer fit for display “should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

Once a flag becomes too torn, tattered and dirty to be flown, it should be retired with dignity, not thrown away. 

People in this area have a number of options to properly retire a flag.

Members of Troop 532 conduct a flag retirement ceremony. (Troop 532 photo)

In Holt, Scout Troop 532 and Cub Scout Pack 532 conduct flag retirement ceremonies each year around Veterans Day in November. The last ceremony was conducted jointly in 2020.

The Boy Scouts of America recommends retiring the flag when it is worn beyond repair.

Flags are ceremoniously burned on a “modest, but blazing fire …in a simple manner with dignity and respect.”

The flag is reduced to ashes so it’s unrecognizable as a former flag.

During a ceremony, multiple flags may be retired.

A typical scouting ceremony consists of a chief of flag retirement who acts as an emcee.

During the ceremony, there’s an invocation and benediction, a color guard, a Scout who reads the history of the flag, a guest speaker and a burn crew.

Adams Sanitation recently announced it will accept flags for disposal and give them a proper retirement.

Flags placed in a box or other appropriate container clearly labeled as an American flag and placed on top of the closed garbage cart lid will be placed in the cab of the trash truck.

They will then be delivered to an appropriate volunteer group such as the VFW, American Legion, Boy Scouts or Knights of Columbus for proper disposal.

Flags can also be dropped off at the Adams office in Baker weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Additionally, Okaloosa County has a flag retirement box located at the Board of County Commissioners office in Shalimar at 1250 N. Eglin Pkwy, Suite 100.

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