Protecting America’s most powerful symbol

As Flag Day, June 14, approaches, I think back to when I recited the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in school and how we continue to do the same at the start of every Legion meeting.

However, nowadays, most schools don’t require students to recite the pledge, let alone require a flag in the classroom. Many people fear the tradition of honoring our American flag is gone forever, leaving today’s youth the inability to show patriotism, flag etiquette and respect.

But Legionnaires are taking action to ensure the traditions of Old Glory are upheld, and in doing so ensuring that then men and women who gave their lives in defense of it are remembered.

Joseph Piazza, a member of Holbrook Post 615 in New Caney, Texas, acquired vast knowledge on the American flag through the Legion’s "Let’s Be Right on Flag Etiquette" booklet and "For Which It Stands" DVD. He shares his knowledge by teaching local junior and senior high school students how to properly carry, display and fold the American flag. Piazza also gave each school a copy of the Legion’s "For Which It Stands" DVD, as well as "America’s Veterans" to help students understand who veterans are, what they have done, and why they should be honored.

"Our flag represents a living country," Piazza said. "So therefore it is a living object."

Members of Milwaukee Post 18 recently visited a local elementary school to share their military experience, quiz the students on flag etiquette and show the children how to properly fold an American flag. The post gave each student their own small flag and donated a new flag to the school, which was raised outside with the students in attendance.

It’s also important that young people know how to retire an American flag according to the U.S. Flag Code. Legion Post 181 in Lake Stevens, Wash., sponsors two flag decommission ceremonies a year and involves youth groups in the process. On Flag Day in 2012, local Boys Scout and Cub Scout troops led Post 181’s decommissioning ceremony by presenting a faded, torn flag to the post commander ,who laid it on a bed of coals. Once the flag was burned, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts took turns laying a flag onto the coals until all 264 flags collected were retired.

Post 181 collects the worn, tattered flags by placing two specially retrofitted U.S. mailboxes in prominent locations within the community. More than 2,500 flags have been retired over the past few years.

The American flag is the most powerful symbol in our nation – it’s a symbol of freedom, pride and hope. And even though the flag may not be raised in every classroom, we as Legionnaires must educate our young people – America’s future – on its traditions to ensure Old Glory is protected, and the men and women who sacrificed their lives for their country are not forgotten.