Veterans of Foreign Wars
of The United States
North Charleston, SC
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On June 14, 1777, the Marine Committee of the Continental Congress adopted a resolution that gave birth to our national flag. The resolution read:
"Resolved that the flag of the United States be made of 13 stripes, alternate red and white, that the union be 13 stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation."
Flag Questions & Answers
The following answers are from the current Federal Flag Code, VFW Ritual and U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry.
What should you do with a worn or torn U.S. flag?
Such a flag should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning. Individuals should be responsible for destroying the worn flag in their possession and burying the ashes. VFW Post 3142 will provide assistance.
If two flags are staffed before the entrance of a building, where should the U.S. flag be?
On the left side as observed from the street.
When is it permitted to half-staff the U.S. flag?
Only the president of the United States or the governor of the state may order the flag to be at half-staff to honor the death of a national or state figure. Unfortunately, many city, business and organization leaders are half-staffing the flag upon the death of an employee or member. Instead, it is suggested to half-staff (if on a separate pole) the city, business or organizational flag. The federal flag code does not prohibit this type of half-staffing.
How should the U.S. flag be displayed from a staff when on a platform or on the floor in a church or auditorium?
The U.S. flag should always be placed to the right of the speaker (viewer's left) without regard to a platform or floor level. Any other flags displayed should be placed on the left of the speaker or to the right of the audience.
What is the meaning of the gold fringe on some flags?
The addition of the fringe started in the early 1800s as decorative enrichment. There are no rules that prohibit the use of fringe on an U.S. flag by nongovernment groups or organizations.
To receive a free copy of the VFW's "Our Flag" brochure send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to:
Who designed the original "Stars and Stripes" flag of the United States is a point never definitely confirmed. Was it Betsy Ross, expert Philadelphia seamstress, or New Jersey's Congressman Francis Hopkinson?
The traditional story that Betsy Ross designed the original flag in 1776 has caught the popular fancy but no official record substantiates the story. Some historians claim that in June 1776, Gen. George Washington, Robert Morris and Betsy's uncle, George Ross, went to her Philadelphia upholstery shop. The men told her they were members of a congressional committee. They showed her a rough design of a stars and stripes flag and asked her if she would make the emblem. She said yes and recommended making the stars five-pointed instead of six. The change was approved.
George Washington drew another design, and Betsy Ross sewed the emblem. On June 14, 1777, Congress adopted it as the official U.S. flag. That is the Betsy Ross story as it is related. However, some sources claim there is no official record of a congressional flag committee. The only documented evidence naming Mrs. Ross is said to be a voucher dated May 29, 1777, showing that she was paid 14 pounds and some shillings for flags she made for the Pennsylvania Navy.
Note: Recent historic research indicates Francis Hopkinson, a consultant to the Second Continental Congress is responsible for designing the original Stars and Stripes.
The name "Old Glory" was first applied to the U.S. flag by a young sea captain who lived in Salem, Mass. On his 21st birthday, March 17, 1824, Capt. William Driver was presented a beautiful flag by his mother and a group of Salem girls. Driver was delighted with the gift and named the flag "Old Glory." Old Glory accompanied the captain on his many sea voyages. In 1837 he quit sailing and settled in Nashville. On patriotic days he displayed Old Glory proudly from a rope extending from his house to a tree across the street.
After Tennessee seceded from the Union in 1861, Captain Driver hid Old Glory, sewing it inside a comforter. When the Union soldiers entered Nashville on February 25, 1862, Driver removed Old Glory from its hiding place. He carried the flag to the capitol building and raised it above the state capitol. Shortly before his death, the old sea captain placed a small bundle into the arms of his daughter. He said to her: "Mary Jane, this is my ship's flag, Old Glory. It has been my constant companion. I love it as a mother loves her child. Cherish it as I have cherished it."
The flag remained as a precious heirloom in the Driver family until 1922. It was then sent to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., where it is carefully preserved under glass.
Our National Anthem
For more than a century the "Star Spangled Banner," written by Francis Scott Key in 1814, was sung as a popular patriotic air. From time to time Army and Navy leaders designated it as the national anthem for official occasions. In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed it the national anthem. Continuous lobbying by the Veterans of Foreign Wars led to Congress designating the song as the official national anthem of the United States on March 3, 1931.
Francis Scott Key practiced law in Baltimore during the War of 1812. In 1814 one of Key's friends, Dr. Beanes, was held prisoner by the British aboard the ship Minden in Baltimore harbor. Key decided he would try to obtain his friend's release. Carrying a flag of truce and a letter from President James Madison, Key rowed out to the ship. His request for the friend's freedom was granted, but both men were detained onboard because the British were about to bombard Fort McHenry.
During the bombardment, Key watched the Stars and Stripes flying over the fort. Darkness fell, and he no longer could see the flag. But the fort kept on firing back at the British, so Key knew the American stronghold had not surrendered.
When daylight returned Key was overjoyed to see that "the flag was still there." Taking an old envelope from his pocket he wrote the stirring opening words," O say, can you see by the dawn's early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming, whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight, o'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?"
After he returned ashore, Key completed the verse, which was later published in the Baltimore American, September 21, 1814. It became popular immediately. Later the words were set to the English "Anacreon in Heaven," which is the tune we sing today.
Pledge of Allegiance
The original draft of the pledge is said to have been written in 1892 by James B. Upham, a magazine publisher in Boston. The first version was: "I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it stands; one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." In 1939, the U.S. Flag Association concluded the pledge's author was Francis Bellamy.
At the first National Flag Conference in 1923 in Washington, D.C., delegates from patriotic societies, civic and other organizations substituted the words "the flag of the United States" for "my flag." The change was made because it was thought that the foreign-born might have in mind the flag of their native land when they said "my flag." Another change was made at the second National Flag Conference in 1924 when the words "of America" were added.
For 30 years the version was: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." In 1954 Congress added the words "under God" to the pledge.
We now recite: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
The pledge of allegiance should be rendered while standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform people should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Members of the armed forces in uniform should remain silent, face the flag and render the military salute.
On May 30, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson declared June 14 Flag Day--a day all Americans would be encouraged to fly and pay homage to our "Stars and Stripes." Today, our flag is recognized as the symbol of a nation that not only honors man's continuing struggle for freedom, but also as a country with a unique system of government.
Fostering patriotism and honoring America's veterans, whether it is Independence Day or Veterans Day, is part of the VFW's philosophical core. Public commemorations hosted by VFW Posts worldwide cultivate an appreciation of both the responsibilities and benefits of being an American.
Memorial Day, May 30 (traditional), is a sacred day to all war veterans. America's collective consciousness demands that all citizens be reminded of the deaths of their fellow countrymen during wartime. By honoring the nation's war dead, we preserve their memory and thus their service and sacrifice. All U.S. flags should be displayed at half-staff during the morning hours. At noon, they should be raised back to full-staff.
The Meaning of Memorial Day
It’s a sacred day to all war veterans: None need to be reminded of the reason that Memorial Day must be commemorated. But what about the general public, and more important, future generations? Do most non-veterans really recognize the importance of the day honoring their fellow Americans killed in war?
Judging from what Memorial Day has become—simply another day off from work—the answer is a resounding no. Perhaps a reminder is due, then. And it is the duty of each and every veteran to relay the message.
Sacrifice is meaningless without remembrance. America’s collective consciousness demands that all citizens recall and be aware of the deaths of their fellow countrymen during wartime.
Far too often, the nation as a whole takes for granted the freedoms all Americans enjoy. Those freedoms were paid for with the lives of others few of us actually knew. That’s why they are all collectively remembered on one special day.
This should be regarded as a civic obligation. For this is a national debt that can only be truly repaid by individual Americans. By honoring the nation’s war dead, we preserve their memory and thus their service and sacrifice in the memories of future generations.
They came from all walks of life and regions of the country. But they all had one thing in common—love of and loyalty to country. This bond cemented ties between them in times of trials, allowing a diverse lot of Americans to achieve monumental ends.
We remember the loss of loved ones, a sense of loss that takes group form. In essence, America is commemorating those who made the greatest sacrifice possible—giving one’s own life on behalf of others.
Means of paying tribute vary. Pausing for a few moments of personal silence is available to everyone.
Attending commemorative ceremonies is the most visible way of demonstrating remembrance: Placing flags at gravesites, marching in parades, sponsoring patriotic programs, dedicating memorials and wearing Buddy Poppies are examples.
Whether done individually or collectively, it is the thought that counts. Personal as well as public acts of remembering are the ideal. Public displays of patriotism are essential if the notion of remembering war dead is to be instilled in youth.
As America’s older war veterans fast disappear from society’s landscape, there are fewer and fewer standard-bearers left to carry the torch of remembrance. Such traditions will live on only if there is a vibrant movement to which that torch can be passed.
Now, more than in recent years, the enduring relevance of Memorial Day should be clearly evident. With two wars under way, the public has no excuse not to remember.
This much is owed to the more than 5,710 Americans who have died thus far in Afghanistan and Iraq.
On July 4, 1776, the signers of the Declaration of Independence boldly asserted that all are "created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." With these words, our forefathers formed a new nation and put forth a vision of liberty and democracy that would forever alter history. Every Fourth of July, Americans celebrate this pivotal moment in our history, which set into motion the development of a land of freedom and opportunity unequalled in the world.
Those whom we lost September 11, 2001, will forever hold a cherished place in our hearts and in the history of our nation. By a joint resolution approved December 18, 2001, (Public Law 107-89), Congress authorized the president to designate September 11 of each year as "Patriot Day" to perpetuate the memory of those who perished in the attack on America and to pursue peace and justice in the world and security at home. Appropriate ceremonies and activities include a moment of silence beginning at 8:46 a.m. EDT, remembrance services and candlelight vigils. Flags should be flown at half-staff on Patriot Day.
Loyalty Day originally began as "Americanization Day" in 1921 as a counter to the Communists' May 1 celebration of the Russian Revolution. On May 1, 1930, 10,000 VFW members staged a rally at New York's Union Square to promote patriotism. Through a resolution adopted in 1949, May 1 evolved into Loyalty Day. Observances began in 1950 on April 28 and climaxed May 1 when more than five million people across the nation held rallies. In New York City, more than 100,000 people rallied for America. In 1958 Congress enacted Public Law 529 proclaiming Loyalty Day a permanent fixture on the nation's calendar.
Veterans Day is an opportunity to publicly commemorate the contributions of living veterans. Armistice Day officially received its name in America in 1926 through a congressional resolution. It became a national holiday 12 years later by similar congressional action.
If World War I had been "the war to end all wars," November 11 might be still called Armistice Day. Realizing that peace was equally preserved by veterans of World War II and Korea, Congress decided to make the day an occasion to honor all those who have served America. In 1954 President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day. (Historically, the first Veterans Day parade was held in 1953 in Emporia, Kansas.)
A law passed in 1968 changed the national commemoration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. It soon became apparent, however, that November 11 was a date of historic significance to many Americans. Therefore, in 1978 Congress returned the observance to its traditional date.
POW/MIA Recognition Day
POW/MIA Recognition Day honors the commitments and the sacrifices made by our nation's prisoners of war and those who are still missing in action.
By custom, it is on the third Friday in September.
National POW/MIA Recognition Day is one of the six days specified by law on which the black POW/MIA flag shall be flown over federal facilities and cemeteries, post offices and military installations.
Find out more about POW/MIA Recognition Day
Flag Day is June 14 and celebrates the official symbol for the United States: our Stars and Stripes. Flag Day was first recognized by Congress on June 14, 1777, which became know as Flag Day.
Not only is the U.S. flag older than the Union Jack of Great Britain and the tri-color flag of France, but also is the only flag to have been flown on the moon.
Congress first stated that there should be a star and stripe for every state. Our first flag had 13 stars and 7 red and 6 white stripes. In 1794, two new states were added and we had a flag with 15 stars and 15 stripes. By 1818 there were 20 states, but our county was still using the flag with 15 stars and 15 stripes. Congress thought about having 20 stripes and agreed that it might become a problem because of its size so they passed a law that said there would be 13 stripes for the original 13 states, and they would add a star for each new state that joined the union.
The U.S. flag is 13 stripes: seven red and six white. A blue field with 50 stars is located next to the staff in the upper left corner of the flag. It extends from the top to the lower edge of the fourth red stripe. The stars are arranged in alternating rows of six and five representing the 50 states of the United States. The stars do not represent any given state.
The colors used in the flag give special meaning to the flag: Red for valor and zeal; white for hope and cleanliness of life; and blue -- the color of heaven -- for reverence and loyalty.
The stars are an ancient symbol of the heavens. Our flag’s 50 stars represent each state as part of the nation, but also a separate level of government. Our federal government was not given the power to control, so that each state would be able to govern themselves in those things they could do better. When you are looking at the flag, you are looking at the magnificent history of all Americans who have lived before us, your own ancestors, the most enduring nation of free people that has ever existed.
Pearl Harbor Day
On the morning of December 7, 1941, Japanese bombers staged a surprise attack on U.S. military and naval forces in Hawaii. In a devastating defeat, the United States suffered 3,435 casualties and loss of or severe damage to 188 planes, 8 battleships, 3 light cruisers, and 4 miscellaneous vessels. Japanese losses were less than 100 personnel, 29 planes, and 5 midget submarines.
The day after the attack, before a joint session of Congress, President Roosevelt asked Congress for a declaration of war against Japan. President Roosevelt's message conveyed the national outrage over the Pearl Harbor attack by pronouncing December 7, 1941 "a date which will live in infamy."
FDR expressed outrage at Japan and confidence in the "inevitable triumph" of the United States. On December 8, 1941, the United States declared war against Japan; on December 11 Germany and Italy declared war against the United States.