I always had a deep admiration for the United States Flag, even before I became a member of the military. It didn’t take long, though, to mold that admiration into the love I have for Old Glory today.
I don’t know if they still teach this in school or not, but the symbolism of the U.S. Flag is quite significant:
• Thirteen stripes for the original 13 colonies, white to signify the purity and innocence of our nation’s new endeavor — freedom for all — and red to signify the hardiness and valor of the men (and now, women) who sacrificed to ensure our liberty.
• Thirteen stars of equal size, arranged in a circle (today, 50 stars arranged in alternating rows of six and five each) to signify the unity and resolve of the states — and to show no one state led the others — on a field of blue to symbolize American vigilance, perseverance and justice.
Beginning with the Revolutionary War — and in many wars that followed — the U.S. Flag led the charge on the battlefield, making the flag bearer one of the most important men in the fray. If the flag bearer were to fall, if someone else wasn’t there to pick it back up and lead the charge, the unit could quickly fall into disarray within the fog of war.
And, after the battle was over, those who didn’t survive were draped in their nation’s colors as a sign of ultimate respect for their valor. When the flag was removed prior to burial, it was folded in a special way — a process of 13 individual folds (more on that another day) — and presented to the hero’s family as a symbol of our nation’s gratitude.
It is this symbolism that makes other veterans’ passions for the U.S. Flag burn so strong. It is why we cringe at the misuse of the flag. It is why we are offended when a flag is carelessly flown in a deteriorated state. It is why we cry out when the flag is desecrated by those too ignorant to understand what they are doing.
When it is time for a flag to be retired due to wear, it should be disposed of properly. The American Legion — of which I am a member — as well as the VFW and Jasper County Veterans Affairs Office at the County Annex Building accept those flags for proper disposal.
Under U.S. Code Title 36 — also referred to as the U.S. Flag Code — flags no longer fit to serve as an emblem of our nation should be destroyed “in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”
Veterans around the country generally perform retirement ceremonies once a year on Flag Day, which is always June 14. But I have discovered Newton doesn’t have a proper fire pit to conduct the retirement ceremony.
There is a volunteer effort under way to change that. It just needs your help.
The City Council recently approved the construction of a fire pit at Union Cemetery on an unused parcel of ground just north of the existing Veteran Memorial. Much of the labor will be donated for the project, but there are some materials that just cannot be donated, creating an estimated $2,500 price tag for the project.
Ron Bookout, a member of Newton Post 111 American Legion in Newton, and several other volunteer veterans, are attempting to raise the money needed for the project. If I can, I’d like your help to make their job a little easier.
I know there are a lot of you reading this right now who are patriotic and supportive of those who have, who are and who will fight and die for the U.S. Flag and the nation for which it stands. Every penny will help, so send your tax-deductible donations to:
Flag Retirement Fund
Newton Post 111 American Legion
1101 W. Fourth St. S.
Newton, IA 50208
If you have any questions, call Bookout at (515) 508-1571 or County Veterans Affairs Director Chris Chartier at (641) 521-4121.
Citizens’ Journalism Academy
Spots still remain open for the Citizens’ Journalism Academy, which will begin Thursday, May 9, and run the next four weeks through June 6. If you are interested in attending this program, please let me know.
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If you’re reading this, thank a teacher. If you’re reading this in English, thank a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.