Ahhh, Memorial Day and what is seen by many as the start of summer. Having stopped by a lumber yard yesterday I can easily say that the sale of barbeque grills, ac units, and flags was pretty brisk. While there is still some doubt about how Memorial Day / Decoration Day originally came to be, most all recognize it started off as a way to honor those that fell in America’s bloodiest war – The Civil War. After World War I, Memorial Day evolved to honor all the men & women who fell in battle (1,343,812 with an additional 38,159 MIA as of this date). In 1971 Memorial Day officially became a Federal Holiday which is observed on the last Monday of May (due to the 1968 Uniform Monday Holiday Act).
While there are many takes on if it should be a day of somber remembrance best observed on the 30th or a time to reflect &/or celebrate is debatable, one item isn’t; we do owe a lot to the men & women who sacrificed their lives to allow us to debate it. I think John Hayward did a nice job of summing it up, “Every American soldier gives his life when he races into battle on our behalf. Thankfully, most of those lives are returned. On Memorial Day, we remember those that were lost.” (Picture courtesy of Arlington National Cemetery)
One of the most confusing aspects for many revolves around the flag and Memorial Day so hopefully these reminders will help.
- Today is one of four days the flag is to be flown at half-staff. However unlike the other three it is only to be flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon and then raised to full staff until sunset.
- When hoisting the flag to half-staff, you should raise it to the top first & then lower it to half-staff. (For other days where it is time to remove a flag that flew at half-staff, you should also hoist it to the top before lowering it to take it off)
- For many homeowners a dedicated flag pole is out of the question, so many choose to mount a shorter one directly to their house. In these cases one can’t fly it at half-staff, but one can attach a black ribbon to the top of the pole until noon time.
- If the flag will be left flying overnight it needs to be lit at all times, with such light being dedicated to the flag itself. You may consider an up-light, a down-light mounted on the pole or a spot light aimed directly at it.
- When the flag is lowered, it should never touch the ground & should be folded. Contrary to popular belief a flag that does touch the ground does not need to be destroyed but cleaned as quickly as possible.
- When storing the flag, it should be clean, mended and folded neatly. If it is tattered or worn so as to be unusable, it should be folded neatly and burned in a dignified manner. Many Boy & Girl Scout troops hold ceremonial flag burnings throughout the year & most American Legion Posts hold one yearly on Flag Day (June 14th).
- Saluting the flag is covered under Title 36 Section 301(b)(1) and has been recently changed to allow all veterans, retirees, and service members not in uniform to salute as if they were in uniform (if they so choose). One interesting part that I did not know was that if one is wearing a hat, it should be removed with the right hand and held at the left shoulder.
- For more great etiquette reminders & tips: http://www.usflag.org/flagetiquette.html
In closing, we hope that you all have a great Memorial Day and take some time to remember just why we actually have this chance to celebrate and why we can enjoy all the freedoms that we do have. For those that do know of a family that did lose a loved one, you might also consider thanking them and seeing how they are doing. A sincere thank you to all…