Yesterday wasn't necessarily a big holiday but was important to a lot of people. And since I wasn't able to write about the dual day in advance, I'll do it ex-post facto, if indeed that is a meaningful phrase.
June 14 is the Army birthday, which is a biggie to a lot of people in this area, and also Flag Day, a day that, sadly, isn't normally a biggie here or anywhere else. The Army, the senior of the five armed services, turned a ripe-old 241 years old Tuesday, meaning it has been around since June 14, 1775. There are some old troopers in the area who some suspect of having been in the first recruiting class, but I suspect they really weren’t.
I shouldn't have to tell folks in this area much if anything about the Army. This being one of the oldest Army towns in the nation, folks should know a bit about the senior service. But the flag? I'll bet most readers could use a primer about Old Glory, so here's what you probably should have known yesterday about flags.
For starters, no one knows with certainty what human in what country or nation raised the first flag. Archeologists have discovered crude drawings and sculptures of flag-like things that date to the earliest days of organized society in both the Near and Far East. In more modern times, more and more emphasis has been placed on a piece, or pieces, of cloth attached to a pole by people all over the globe.
There have been three main areas where flags have been used: religious ceremonies, military units and ships to signal their nationality or allegiance to the country that owned them. People have figured out many other uses down though the years, of course, far too many to mention here.
There are several types of flags, including the national flag flown by private citizens on land, merchants flag, displayed on ships at sea, government flag, displayed at government offices, public buildings and by diplomatic personnel, and the ensign, flown on naval ships as a national symbol.
At military bases such as Fort Leavenworth, there are four types of flags, which are all the same except for size. The largest, the garrison flag, is 20x38 feet and flown on holidays and at other special occasions. The post flag, the one seen on most days, is 10x19 feet, and the smallest, the storm flag, is flown when its name suggests, and is 5x9 feet, 6 inches.
During parades and at other formal occasions, the national flag is carried by marching troops and has golden yellow fringe on three sides and is 4 feet, 4 inches by 5 feet, 6 inches. I don't recall having ever seen one of those at Fort Leavenworth, but then there are not many formal parades at the fort.
The first national flags are thought to have entered use in Europe after the Crusades when Europeans began to explore beyond their borders. Their ships needed a form of easily recognized identification so countries developed what became called national colors. No country is credited with flying the first national flag. Interestingly, several countries adopted red, white and blue colors for their flags following the trend of the Dutch after their fight for independence from Spanish rule. That includes the flags of France and the United States.
Far beyond the scope of this brief column is how to properly display the flag, when to fly it and when to render proper honors and homage to it. There is even a proper way to fold the flag, which is most usually done at a military funeral or when a flag is taken off the flagpole at the end of a duty day.
And as a final note, I will say that a flag does not have to be taken down if it is illuminated throughout the night, which is the case at practically all national cemeteries and at many private homes in the area.
John Reichley is a retired Army officer and Department of the Army civilian employee.