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— “I believe our flag is more than just cloth and ink. It is a universally recognized symbol that stands for liberty, and freedom. It is the history of our nation, and it’s marked by the blood of those who died defending it.”

U.S. Sen. John Thune

Friday is Flag Day, which will mark 242 years since the Stars and Stripes officially was made the flag of our country. I agree with U.S. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota. That’s why I think following proper flag etiquette is important.

We see headlines periodically about folks outraged by certain forms of protest, such as professional athletes taking a knee during the National Anthem, but few speak out about improper displays of and irreverence for our county’s flag. The disconnect between the two thought processes is staggering. The U.S. Constitution provides protections for peaceful protest and free speech. U.S. codes protect the national emblem. Sadly, too many have become comfortable with ignoring both.

A New Jersey Congressman named Francis Hopkinson is credited with the flag design and it became the official U.S. flag on June 14, 1777, by resolution of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia: “Resolved, that the flag of the thirteen United States shall be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the Union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

More stars were added to the flag as more states entered the union. “The current version of the flag dates to July 4, 1960, when Hawaii became the 50th state,” the Library of Congress website says.

Proposals for a day recognizing the Stars and Stripes dates back to the Civil War era, but it was not until 1916, with World War I underway, that President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed June 14 as Flag Day. That date was designated as National Flag Day by Congress in 1949, and signed into law on Aug. 3 of that year by President Harry Truman, according to the Library of Congress.

While not an official federal holiday, Flag Day has historically been celebrated with citizens displaying the flag, which means a review of flag etiquette, outlined in the U.S. Flag Code, is timely.

Following are some points to keep in mind about the display and maintenance of the flag:

• The flag should not be displayed during inclement weather, except when an all-weather flag is displayed. Traditionally, the flag is displayed from sunrise until sunset, though it can be displayed at night if properly lit.

• The flag should never be used for advertising, printed on disposable items like napkins or boxes, or used as part of a costume or athletic uniform. Yet, we see representations on all of them and my personal pet peeve — swimsuits.

• The flag should not be dipped to any person or thing, including the President of the United States.

• The flag should never touch anything below it, including the ground.

• No flag should be displayed higher than the American flag, and when another nation’s flag is flown, it should be flown from a separate flag pole, with the American flag hoisted first and lowered last. The American flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.

• If displayed on a car, the flag should be affixed to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.

When a flag is no longer in good condition, it should be destroyed in a dignified, ceremonious fashion, preferably by burning. Organizations such as the American Legion can assist in proper disposal of worn flags. The organization offers more on flag etiquette on its website: https://www.legion.org/flag/code.

As Sen. Thune noted, our flag is a universally recognized symbol that stands for liberty, and freedom. People have died defending it. Celebrate Flag Day, but respect the emblem. Use proper etiquette.

(Shea Wilson is the former managing editor of the News-Times. Email her at melsheawilson@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter.com @sheawilson7.)

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