In the span of less than six weeks we have three patriotic holidays with Memorial Day, Flag Day, and the Fourth of July. This Thursday, June 14, is Flag Day, making this week "National Flag Week" as set forth in the annual Presidential Proclamation. According to the words of the proclamation, citizens are called upon to display the flag and observe with pride those days from Flag Day through Independence Day as a time to honor our nation and celebrate our heritage in public gatherings and activities.
Flag Day specifically honors our flag and is believed to have originated in 1885 when a school teacher from Wisconsin organized a "flag birthday" to observe the anniversary of the official adoption of the Stars and Stripes. It was on June 14, 1777 that the Continental Congress had passed the Flag Act in order to establish an official flag for the new nation. In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Flag Day as a national celebration. It was officially recognized in 1949 when President Harry Truman signed the National Flag Day Bill. Each year, the President of the United States issues a Flag Day Proclamation for the purpose of reaffirming our pride and respect for the American way of life and to remind Americans that the flag is a "badge of honor" and a sign of our common purpose.
Sometimes when we contemplate current events, we may wonder if pride and respect for our country and flag have declined. Indeed, history has shown that great societies and republics only last so long due to a variety of factors, one of which is a loss of individual responsibility and yet another a sense of appreciation for the past. However, much is still good as evidenced by some of the youth amongst us. Every year a dedicated group of veterans from local legions visit schools as part of the "Chautauqua County American Legion Flag Education Program." After a presentation about the American Flag, fourth graders are given the challenge to write an essay of approximately 150 words entitled, "What the Flag Means to Me." Ten prizes are awarded from hundreds of essays from schools across the county. In the spirit of Flag Day, following are the first and second place essays. Mackenzie Quinn of Fredonia won first place with a prize of $100 and Alec Schrader, also of Fredonia, won second place with a prize of $75.
First-place winner Mackenzie Quinn and second-place winner Alec Schrader were presented prizes for the “What the Flag Means to Me” essay contest by, pictured, from left: Walt Sedlmayer, Martin Schroeder, Richard Boss, Craig Sutton, Stan Kawski and John Miga.
"One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. When I say this, they are anything but empty words. When I look at the flag, it is like I am staring straight into the eyes of my papa. He was in the Vietnam War in the 1960s and died of pancreatic cancer before I was born. The flag is the only connection I have to him. The colors of the star spangled banner are red, white and blue with the 50 bright stars for the 50 states that make our country strong. The flag means that I have the freedom to express myself without having to worry about being scolded or severely punished. The flag makes me think about how people had to fight for freedom; it wasn't just handed to us. It isn't possible to repay the soldiers, but saying the pledge while facing the flag every morning is just a respectful way to say, 'Thank you.'" (Mackenzie Quinn)
"To me, the American flag means our country's history and how we gained independence from England. When I see the stars and stripes, I remember all the things leading up to the Revolutionary War, the war that our country fought for freedom. Also, it reminds me of how lucky we are to live in the land of opportunity, where there are no dictators forcing us to do what they want. The flag makes me think of our country's government, how we have the right to vote, speak our minds, and believe in our own religion. When I face the red, white, and blue before my baseball games and hear the National Anthem, it makes me feel good to be a part of a country's pastime. We take off our hats and not only honor the flag, but the soldiers who fought and all the people who have made sacrifices for our country. It is like we do at school in the morning when we say the Pledge of Allegiance. When we say the pledge, we're promising to be loyal to our flag and our country. When we sing all of the Patriotic songs, that's another way of honoring our flag. That's what the flag means to me; greatness but sometimes sadness because some people lost their lives to give us freedom. Still, it's an honor to get to live in a great country like ours!" (Alec Schrader)
Make it a good week and remember to proudly display our American flag.
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