"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
The Pledge of Allegiance, which was developed from the original pledge published in the Sept. 8, 1892, issue of the Youth's Companion, a weekly magazine then published in Boston, can be recited by nearly all Americans.
The pledge takes on special importance today. Today, June 14, is Flag Day.
Although Flag Day is not as widely celebrated as some other holidays, it is no less significant.
The true history of the Stars and Strips has become so cluttered with myth and tradition that it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine. In fact, it is not certain who designed the Stars and Strips, who made the first flag, or even if it ever flew in any sea fight or land battle during the American Revolution.
Records in Washington indicate that a resolution that was offered by the Marine Committee of the Second Continental Congress at Philadelphia and adopted on June 14, 1777, made the Stars and Stripes the official U.S. flag.
It reads, "Resolved: that the flag of the United States be 13 stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be 13 stars, white in a blue field, representing the constellation."
Although that resolution originated in 1777, it was not until 146 years later that there was a serious attempt to establish a uniform code of etiquette for the U.S. flag.
Finally, on Feb. 15, 1923, the War Department issued a circular on the rules on flag usage. The rules were then adopted on June 14, 1923, by a conference of 68 patriotic organizations in Washington. Finally, on June 22, 1942, Congress made the rules the law of the land.
In brief, they state:
- When to Display the Flag.
The flag should be displayed on all days, especially on legal holidays, on official buildings when in use, in or near polling places, and in or near schools. A citizen may fly the flag any time he wishes. It is customary to display the flay on from sunrise to sunset, but it may be displayed at night on special occasions, preferably lighted.
- How to Fly the Flag.
The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously, and should never be allowed to touch the ground or floor. No other flag may be flown above, or if on the same level, to the right of the U.S. flag, except at the United Nations Headquarters, where the UN flag flies above the flags of all member nations. During a time of war, in this country, the American flag will always be flown above others. During peacetime, it is on the same level. On a U.S. Navy vessel at sea, during church services, the U.S. flag flies below the church flag. That is the only time the American flag is flown below another flag.
- When to Salute the Flag.
All persons present should face the flag, stand at attention and salute on the following occasions: 1) When the flag is passing in a parade or in a review; 2) During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering; 3) When the National Anthem is played; and 4) During the Pledge of Allegiance.
- Prohibited Uses of the Flag.
The flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. It should never be displayed with the union down, save as a distress signal. It should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.
It should not be displayed on a float, car or boat except from a staff.
It should never be used as a covering for a ceiling, nor have placed upon it any word, design or drawing.
The flag should never be used for advertising purposes, nor be embroidered on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, or used as a costume or athletic uniform.
- How to Dispose of Worn Flags.
The flag, when it is in such condition that it is nor longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning in private.
The American Legion is recognized as the preeminent expert source of information on the U.S. Flag Code.
It publishes and distributes the pamphlet, "Let's be Right on Flag Etiquette," a comprehensive guide on how to properly display the U.S. Flag under all conditions. It is available for $1.
Information on the proper display of the flag can be found at The American Legion website at www.legion.org.