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Article Archive >> Community

Reflections: The day we salute our flag

Reflections
The day we salute our flag
By William L. Bulla

June 14 is celebrated as Flag Day and I thought it would be appropriate to salute our flag in my column today.
It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States, which happened on June 14 by resolution of the Second Continental Congress in 1777.
Our nation's flag was first carried into battle on September 11, 1777, in the Battle of the Brandywine. The American flag was first saluted by foreign naval vessels on February 14, 1778, when the Ranger, bearing the Stars and Stripes and under the command of Captain Paul Jones, arrived in a French port. The flag first flew over a foreign territory in early 1778 at Nassau, Bahamas Islands, where Americans captured a British fort.
There are many claims to the first official observance of Flag Day. The first was from a Hartford, Connecticut celebration during the first summer of 1861. Another came on June 14, 1889, when George Bolch, principal of a free kindergarten for the poor of New York City, had his school hold patriotic ceremonies to observe the anniversary of the Flag Day resolution. This initiative attracted attention from the State Department of Education, which arranged to have the day observed in all public schools in New York state.
In 1897, the governor of New York ordered the displaying of the flag over all public buildings in the state, an observance considered by some to be the first official recognition of the anniversary of the adoption of the flag outside of schools.
In 1893, the Society of Colonial Dames in Philadelphia succeeded in getting a resolution passed to have the flag displayed on all of the city's public buildings. Elizabeth Duane Gillespie, a direct descendant of Benjamin Franklin and the president of the Colonial Dames of Pennsylvania, in that same year, tried to get the city to call June 14 Flag Day. It was not until May 7, 1937, that Pennsylvania became the first state to establish the June 14 Flag Day as a legal holiday. Flag Day is a nationwide observance today, but Pennsylvania is the only state that recognizes it as a legal holiday
Bernard J. Cigrand, a school teacher in Waubeka, Wisconsin, reportedly spent years trying to get Congress to declare June 14 as a national holiday. Although his attempts failed, the day was widely observed.
"Father of Flag Day" honors have been given to William T. Kerr, who was credited with founding the American Flag Day Association in 1888, while still a schoolboy, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Both President Wilson, in 1916, and President Coolidge, in 1927, issued proclamations asking for June 14 to be observed as the National Flag Day. But it wasn't until August 3, 1949, that Congress approved the national observance, and President Harry Truman signed it into law.
Flag Day is a holiday that is observed on June 14th to commemorate the day that congress adopted the United States flag on June 14, 1777. It is also a day to contemplate the significance of the most cherished symbol of the United States of America, and to ponder its meaning on a personal level.
Flag Day is an opportunity to remember the unique freedoms and values upon which the United States was founded and which through time have held the country together. In spite of the challenges and struggles faced in developing into a mature and united country, the flag has stood through all, reminding Americans of their values and giving them the courage to be a truly great nation.
On this day I ask each of you reading my column to stand up, place your hand over your heart and say these words: " I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands. One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all."

William L. Bulla is a freelance writer residing in Washington County.

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