As I drive through my community and surrounding areas, I take great pride in the number of businesses and homes that display our flag. It is, in a word, the greatest symbol of freedom the world has ever known. People from other countries are still risking everything to make their way to our shores because it is known world-wide that opportunity to make a wonderful life for them and their family is still very possible in the United States of America.
The American flag is called by many names, or nicknames, if you will. Some of them are: Old Glory; the Stars & Stripes; Colors (military term); the National Emblem; the Star Spangled Banner; and the Red, White and Blue.
Perhaps the best known name used for the flag is Old Glory. There’s quite an interesting story associated with the naming of the flag. In the early part of the 1800s, a ship captain of a commercial vessel, William Driver, was given a gift by his mother of a handmade American flag with the blue field boasting 24 stars, and the 13 alternating red and white stripes. Driver flew the flag on all his voyages, finally retiring in 1837, and settling in Nashville, Tennessee where he proudly flew his flag on all national holidays.
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Driver asked some neighbor ladies to sew his beloved flag into a comforter, thus hiding it from the Confederates who were in control of Tennessee, searching to destroy anything that had to do with the United States and the Union Army. He chose not to ask his mother or other family members to undertake this task of hiding the flag. Exactly why, no one knows. I suspect it had to do with not wanting his family to reveal its whereabouts should they be pressed to give up the information.
When the war was over, Driver brought out his flag whereupon it was selected to be flown atop the spire of the state capitol building. The Ohio 6th Infantry was on hand to witness this event. Caught up in the moment, the famed unit adopted Old Glory as their motto. Newspapers printed the story referring to the flag, just as Captain Driver had done for so many years, as Old Glory. Americans all across the land quickly adopted the new name for the national flag.
Today, flags are used to represent countries, states, schools, and organizations. Flags incorporate the history and ideals of an organization or country through symbolism. For you logophiles, you lovers of words, here’s one for you: Vexillology. This mouthful means the “study of flags.” You’re sure to have fun testing your friends at work and school with this word!
Back to the point of this article today: We’re coming up on Memorial Day, (a specific day we remember those military members who have died serving our country) which is recognized this year on Monday, May 25. Then there’s Flag Day on Sunday, June 14. This is a time for all Americans to show their love of country and patriotic fervor by flying Old Glory from homes and businesses. And of course, there is our Independence Day, Saturday, July 4. All of these days are made-to-order for flying the flag.
But the love of country and the surge of patriotism will not mean very much unless the flag is properly displayed and cared for. I see far too many American flags displayed in front of homes, as well as businesses and government buildings, which are in a pathetic condition. Besides being ripped and torn, worn and frayed, the colors have faded due to constant exposure to the elements, particularly the intense sun we receive in the Central Valley of California. The bright red stripes are faded to a dull pink; the blue field is a dingy grey; and the white stars, and alternating white stripes, are a dirty beige.
I love to see Old Glory flying throughout our town, and across the nation. But, please, if you are going to fly the flag, be responsible enough to have it replaced so it never deteriorates into a condition that is embarrassing.
Take a moment to stop and look at the flag flying in front of your home. And then look at the one flying at your place of work. The flags we fly typically from our homes cost about $25-$30 dollars at any hardware store. Flags flown from businesses will run from $150-$200 and can be purchased or ordered from a flag store.
My suggestion is to purchase two flags. This way you always have a replacement flag on hand. A flag will begin to lose its luster and crispness after about six months. So replace the flag every six months. It’s the cost of lunch for two for you folks with flags flying from your home. For business folks, write the cost of two flags into your annual budget just as you would any other business operation expense.
I’m proud to be an American! I want my flag to reflect that pride, don’t you?
Old Glory! Long may she wave!