Honoring Old Glory

May 30—GREENSBURG — Ushered in by a wave of nationalism that has spread through the United States in recent years, many feel the need to proudly display the emblem of our nation's heraldry, especially now as the Memorial Day and the July 4 holidays approach.

Whether it be in their front yard, hanging from a porch railing, as a bumper sticker on the back window next to a decal of stick-figures, or as is seemingly a local custom, flying behind the cab of their Ford F-150, "Old Glory" is more visible now in the streets of small town America then at any other time in recent history.

But even though we show our pride for our beloved nation by displaying the national colors, many know nothing about how the Founding Fathers intended the symbol of USA freedom to be flown.

First, there are many parts of the USA flag.

According to www.finelineflag.com, the header is the band of material placed on the pole side (hoist) of the flag. It serves to secure the flag to the halyard line. The header is usually made of a thick cotton/poly blend that feels like canvas.

The canton, a term which usually refers to the top left corner, is also called the union. It's the blue background where the 50 stars are sewn or appliqued.

The field is the background or predominant color of the flag. It is white.

The 13 red stripes adorning the flag symbolize the 13 original colonies established in the New World.

The fly end is the edge of the flag furthest away from the pole that flies freely and endures the most stress or whip.

Decatur County Veterans Service Officer Mike Baumgartner confesses he might not be an expert on the topic, but he doesn't mind insuring local flags are properly retired. He also knows some interesting pieces of trivia about Old Glory many don't know.

Some flags have gold braiding and fringe around the boarders. According to Baumgartner, the gold is purely decorative.

"In the olden days, when armies lined up on separate ends of the field, supposedly that braid dispersed static electricity gathered from flying swords and muskets. At the end of the day, or at the end of a battle, the flag was rolled tightly around its staff and secured with roping before it was stored, usually in a tent during war, and it was never allowed to touch the ground," Baumgartner said.

"The biggest part is that you don't dispose of the flag (after it has served its use), you retire" it, and there's a ceremony attached to that," he continued. "You should never just throw a flag away. That's terrible."

Baumgartner takes flags in need of proper disposal to the Shelbyville V.F.W. where they regularly and properly dispose of retired flags. He accepts them during his normal office hours, which are 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Some tips on displaying a United States Flag, from www.military.com/flag-day/flag-ettiquette.

Display the U.S. flag from sunrise to sunset on buildings and stationary flagstaffs in the open. When a patriotic effect is desired the flag may be displayed 24-hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.

When placed on a single staff or lanyard, place the U.S. Flag above all other flags.

When flags are displayed in a row, the U.S. flag goes to the observer's left. Flags of other nations are flown at the same height. State and local flags are traditionally flown lower. When used during a marching ceremony or parade with other flags, the U.S. Flag will be to the observer's left.

On special days, the flag may be flown at half-staff. On Memorial Day it is flown at half-staff until noon and then raised.

When flown at half-staff, it should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day. "Half-staff" means lowering the flag to one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff.

When the flag is displayed over the middle of the street, it should be suspended vertically with the union (blue field of stars) to the north in an east and west street or to the east in a north and south street. When placed on a podium the flag should be placed on the speaker's right or the staging area. Other flags should be placed to the left.

When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall (or other flat surface), the union should be uppermost and to the flag's own right, to the observer's left.

When displayed in a window it should be displayed in the same way, with the union to the left of the observer in the street. When the flag is displayed on a car, the staff shall be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.

When the flag is used to cover a casket, it should be so placed that the union is at the head and over the left shoulder. The flag should not be lowered into the grave or allowed to touch the ground.

Never dip the U.S. Flag for any person, flag, or vessel and never let it touch the ground.

Never fly it flag upside down unless there is an emergency, and when displaying it never tie it back; always let it fly free.

Never use the flag for decoration. Use bunting with the blue on top, then white, then red.

Contact Bill Rethlake at 812-651-0876 or email bill.rethlake@greensburgdailynews.com