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NEWS | June 8, 2015

Red, White and You – Happy Flag Day!

By Lt. Col. Chris Hobbs 315th Maintenance Group deputy commander

Flag Day, June 14th, happens to fall on a Sunday this year and I started thinking about what I could and should do to celebrate the most recognizable and cherished symbol of our great nation.  Seeking inspiration, I headed over to the Air Base retreat grounds where the base flag presides over a horseshoe of state flags.  There was a breeze in the air so it was fairly easy to identify most of the flags.  Every time one of those nylon rectangles rolled and snapped in the breeze it would bring back a memory, returning me to another place and time. They also encouraged me to venture out to make new memories in places I had never been but always wanted to go.  While I looked up at  "Old Glory," I thought of all the memories I've gathered under her silent guard. Then it occurred to me that one of the best ways I could celebrate Flag Day was to learn more about the origins of this holiday and more about the flag's history.  Turning, as I often do, to, I found Barbara Marazanis' article "Fast Flag Facts," and decided to share three of her fun backstories:     
1. In American history, June 14 isn't just a day to honor the flag.

While the 1777 resolution establishing a national flag was the impetus for the national holiday known as Flag Day. That date also holds great significance for the U.S. Army.  Two years earlier, just weeks after the Battles of Lexington and Concord kicked off the American Revolution; Congress formally authorized the enlistment of soldiers to fight in what became known as the Continental Army. So, on Sunday, June 14th, also remember to wish the U.S. Army a happy 240th birthday.

2. Only one state observes Flag Day as a legal state holiday.
It took more than a century after the creation of America's flag for anyone to suggest a holiday to honor it. In 1885, a Wisconsin grade school teacher named Bernard Cigrand held what's believed to be the first recognized Flag Day. It began Cigrand's lifelong quest to establish a formal holiday. Woodrow Wilson issued a presidential proclamation calling for a June 14 commemoration in 1916. However,  it wasn't until 1949, 16 years after the death of the Cigrand, the "father of Flag Day," that Congress passed legislation as a national holiday. It is not, however, a federal holiday. In fact, it's only an official holiday in any capacity in one state. Perhaps fittingly, it's Pennsylvania, where the flag was officially created and legend holds (though it's wholly unsubstantiated) that local seamstress Betsy Ross sewed the original flag.

3. The only casualties at Fort Sumter were flag-related.
More than 620,000 Americans lost their lives during the Civil War but only two of those fatalities occurred during the first battle of the war. When Confederate forces began the bombardment of Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor on April 12, 1861, Union commander Major Robert Anderson held out for more than 34 hours before finally surrendering the fort. One of Anderson's conditions for surrendering was that his men be allowed to observe a 100-gun salute as the American flag was lowered from the fort. During the ceremony, a nearby pile of rifle cartridges exploded, killing two soldiers (the first fatalities of the war) and injuring four others. Anderson carried the flag, badly damaged during the bombardment, to the north where it was frequently displayed to boost morale. Four years to the day after Anderson's surrender, he once again raised the flag over Sumter after the Union had recaptured it. Just a few hours later, Abraham Lincoln would be fatally shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC.

No matter how you choose to celebrate Flag Day this year, I encourage you to embrace the spirit and purpose of this special day.  Take a moment to reflect on what our flag means to you and how you can help ensure its legacy is preserved.  As Americans, we all share our flag's storied past as well as its boundless future!