On August 3, 1949, President Harry S Truman signed a proclamation designating a national day on which we honor the United States Flag, and so June 14 became known as National Flag Day.
The story goes deeper, though. President Woodrow Wilson was the first president to establish the date by proclamation in 1916, following initial efforts by New York kindergarten teacher George Balch to hold an observation on the anniversary of the official adoption of the Stars and Stripes. Balch’s 1889 effort gradually gained ground, and with the involvement of the Sons of the Revolution, the idea was popularized. The National Flag Day Association was formed in Illinois in 1894 and a Flag Day observance was held in Chicago that year with three hundred thousand school children in attendance.
It’s no accident that Flag Day traces its history to educating children about Old Glory. We do the same every time we meet. Scout meetings traditionally begin with a flag ceremony and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, as does nearly every school day. Teaching our young people about our nation through the red, white and blue seems like a natural thing to do. The flag has been there through good times and bad, in war and peace.
Scouting and the flag go together, so why not underscore that connection by going beyond the customary flag presentation? There are many ways that Scouts can honor the flag. Here are a few ideas:
- Offer to carry the flag at the head of your town’s parades for Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans’ Day or other patriotic holidays. Some communities even have a Flag Day parade and celebration, and it’s a natural to offer support.
- Participate in, or conduct, a flag ceremony for a city council or school board meeting. Do this on a regular basis so Scouting is before your elected officials often.
- Place flags on the graves of veterans on Memorial Day.
- Provide instruction to your community on flag etiquette, such as when to display the flag and how to fold it.
- Your unit could conduct a fundraiser by providing flags to members of your community for a nominal cost.
- Purchase and donate flags to the school, church or chartered organization where your unit meets. Or provide flags to the American Legion or VFW post in your town.
- Hold a dignified flag retirement ceremony at camp or a public event. Offer your services to your community. Return the grommets with a certificate to the flag’s owner.
- If your unit conducts a flag sale fundraiser, you could include retirement of old flags.
This year, plan to start honoring our nation’s flag in ways that Scouting does best.