Broad stripes & bright stars

Photo by Ned Hickson/Siuslaw News

One of America’s most preeminent symbols is having a birthday this week. Flag Day is this Friday, June 14, and the Stars and Stripes will once again line Florence city streets and public buildings in a tradition that goes back more than 100 years.

President Woodrow Wilson was the first president to officially acknowledge the day when he issued a proclamation in 1916, commemorating the resolution passed by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777, adopting the flag of the United States.

In 1946, National Flag Day was established by an act of Congress and has been observed nationwide since that time.

Flag Day is not a federal holiday but at the president’s discretion an official observance can be proclaimed, which President Donald Trump has done this year.

“On Flag Day and during National Flag Week, we celebrate and honor our nation’s lasting emblem, our great American flag. Since the Second Continental Congress adopted its design more than 200 years ago, the Stars and Stripes has been a powerful symbol of freedom, hope and opportunity,” Trump stated in a proclamation on June 7. “We fly Old Glory from government buildings, schools, city halls, police and fire stations, stores, offices and our front porches. Wherever Americans are gathered — sporting events, places of worship, parades and rallies — our flag waves proudly, representing the enduring spirit of our country.”

The importance of the flag as a symbol of America’s commitment to freedom and liberty is long established.

The significance of the flag to the military is also long standing as flags have accompanied soldiers into battle since the Revolutionary War. One example of this strong connection is the fact that the U.S. Army has chosen to also celebrate its birthday on Flag Day.

Perhaps the most recognized ongoing tribute to the flag is a song written by Francis Scott Key, which has since become our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The singing of the anthem has become ingrained in the culture as it now directly precedes most major American sporting events and many cultural events, such as this past weekend’s graduation ceremonies.

There are two Flag Day related ceremonies taking place in Florence on Flag Day. The first will be held at Florence Elks Lodge #1858, 1686 12th St., at 10 a.m. and will include the presentation of a number of different American flags and the stories behind them.

For example, the flag that inspired the “Star-Spangled Banner” was first loaned to the Smithsonian Institute in 1907, became part of the permanent collection in 1912, and has remained on continual exhibit at the National Museum of American History since 1964. Millions of visitors have viewed this important artifact from America’s past since that time.

The fraternal order of Elks has been holding flag ceremonies since 1907 and included the recognition of the day as a requirement of all lodges beginning in 1911.

Harry S. Truman, himself a member of the Elk’s, signed the Flag Day bill into law on Aug. 3, 1949.

There will also be an official Flag Day retirement ceremony coordinated by local veterans that will retire old and worn flags beginning at 4 p.m. at Veteran’s Memorial Park on Bay Street in Historic Old Town Florence.


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