Semaphore Flags

11949934001267935583semaphore_positions.svg.medDid that get your attention? It should have, because that motion with the flags in that position is the internationally designated semaphore signal for “Attention!” It also means “Error,” but we can skip that for now.

Semaphore flags are the end result of a signaling system developed in the late 1600s by Robert Hooke (of microscope fame). He presented it to the Royal Society, but they failed to do anything with it. A century later, it was adapted and used by Claude Chappe in France, eventually covering much of the country and allowing for very rapid transmission of information across vast distances.

Chappe’s design was a tower with a large crossbar at the top, with arms at either end that each could be arranged in seven different positions. The crossbar itself could assume four different positions, allowing for a total of 196 different configurations. This allowed for a sophisticated system of phrases and messages to be sent to another tower within extreme visual distance, which would then copy it, allowing the next tower to copy it, and so on.

These towers were so successful that the French government initially rejected Samuel Morse’s telegraph on the basis that the wires could be too easily cut. Eventually, of course, they fell out of favor, largely because they were pretty much useless at night, and when they could be seen, everyone could see them, so secret signals were suddenly no longer as much so.

Before that time, though, they inspired the development of the smaller version used shipboard to great effect. Those were flags, and that’s why we’re here.

US_Navy_030611-N-3160B-003_Signalman_Seaman_Adrian_Delaney_practices_his_semaphore

Semaphore flags are (if on a ship) red and yellow or (if on land) blue and white. The colors are split diagonally with the red hoist-side and on top. (Although the colors don’t matter: the land-based version is blue with a white square in the center. It’s just to make the arm position more obvious.)

The arm position is what gives the letter – or numeral, depending on what you need to signal. The flags do not overlap unless they are in the “rest” or “space” position, in which case they are directly in front of the signaler with both arms straight down. The alphabet is laid out similarly to a wheel: each arm can take one of eight positions, and the combination of the positions of the two arms denotes the letter. Six of the letters require an arm to be brought across the body so the flags are on the same side, and there is a unique signal to denote that the signaler is switching to numbers. (The switch back to letters is denoted by signaling “J”.)

Starting in the rest position with both flags in the down position, the right arm rising to low gives “A”, and rises a quarter-rotation for B, C, and D. Then the right arm drops back to down, the left arm goes to the high position for “E” and follows down to “G”.

Easy enough, right? Then “H” is done by the right hand being straight out and the left hand going across to the low position underneath. Keep your left hand there for “I” while raising the right hand up to the high position. Skip “J” for now; “K” continues the same circle except for convenience’s sake you swap arms. That is to say, right hand in the low position, left hand in the up position. “L” through “N” continue the sweep, then you move your right hand up one more to straight out and cross your left hand over again. Then the pattern continues – it’s actually much easier than it sounds from just reading it.

We did imply we would come back to “J”. That’s a unique position where your right hand is straight up and your left hand is straight out. This may seem odd, but it’s a consequence of assigning numbers to the first series of letters; the signal to switch back has to be significantly different so the intent is clear.

Semaphore is not outdated quite yet; it has significant use as a quick signaling system for areas – such as in the mountains or onboard ship – where visual clarity is good but the distance between participants may be too great for verbal clarity. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have used it (without flags, unfortunately) for years in such situations.

Of course, the most famous use of semaphore is probably Monty Python’s depiction of the classic British pastime of reciting Wuthering Heights completely in semaphore, as Emily Bronte probably originally wished.

The History of the American Flag- For Kids

The American flag is a symbol of the United States’ long history––and it might be much older than you thought! A flag is a very important part of a country’s identity. Some of them are hundreds of years old and are very important to the people who live in that country. Did you know that there are almost 200 independent countries in the world? That’s a lot of flags! Each one is made with its own specific colors and designs. How many flags can you describe?

Are you curious about the history of the American flag and how it came to be? Read on to find out more about how old the flag is, how it has changed, and what it looks like today.

June 14th, 1777

Did you know that America wasn’t always an independent nation? Long before it separated into its own country, America was a part of a British colony. Once America decided to separate from the British colony, then the creation of the flag took place.

When the United States of America was a very young nation, it needed a flag of its own. On June 14th, 1777, a group called the Continental Congress agreed that the United States should have their own flag made. This was a very important step in American history. While the flag has changed over time, it has always been an important symbol for America and its citizens. Read on to learn more about this important piece of history.

The Design

Are you wondering what the first flag looked like in 1777?

In its first year, the flag was designed to have thirteen stripes: red and white stripes, to be exact! The stripes would switch between red and white, with the final design having seven red stripes and six white stripes in between them. (Kind of like a candy cane!)

In the top corner of the flag it was decided that there would be a blue background with thirteen stars, so that it would look like stars in the night sky, which is also known as a constellation. The stars were shaped in a large circle; nowadays, there are too many stars to use that same shape!

The colors of the flag have always been red, white, and blue since its very start. Many of the flags in history have been designed with these three colors, including Great Britain and France. Do you know what the colors mean?

It has been said that the blue in the flag represents a variety of symbols, including grit, freedom, justice, and care. The red coloring stands for revolution, bravery, and toughness, while the white is a symbol for purity, peace, and innocence. The American flag was created with all of these symbols in mind, in order to represent the people who lived in this country.

Between 1777 and1960, the flag was re-designed to look a different way. As the country has gotten older, it has welcomed new states to join in. When this happened, the American flag would add another star to its design to represent the new state. Do you know how many stars the flag has today? The answer is 50: just like the number of states now included in the United States. The flag today has the same 13 stripes to represent the 13 colonies, and 50 stars for all of the states. Very cool! stars for all of the states. Very cool!

The flag has definitely come a long way … let’s take a look at more of the history behind this great flag!

Who Made It?

We are not totally sure where the first American flag came from. It is believed that it was designed by a Congressman of New Jersey by the name of Francis Hopkins, and that it was sewn by a woman named Betsy Ross from Philadelphia.

Since its creation, the American flag has been re-created and sold to millions of people located all over the world! Did you know that the flag is still bought by hundreds of Americans? Just three years ago in 2013, Americans spent almost 4 million dollars on American flags! (That’s a LOT of flags!)

Rules of the Flag

Because the American flag has been so important to the country’s history, it is always treated with a large amount of respect. It is expected that anyone taking care of an American flag will not let it touch the ground when it is being handled. This makes raising and lowering the flag quite hard. Those who are responsible for the raising and lowering of the flag are trained to do it properly. Do you think you would want to have that responsibility?

When there is a great loss in the country, the American flag may also be lowered to half-mast to show respect to those who have lost their lives or suffered tragedy. The term “half-mast” describes the way a flag sits half-way down a pole. Do you know the routine for raising a flag to half-mast?

Those who are responsible for raising the flag to half-mast must hoist it to the very top of the pole before lowering it halfway. Similarly, when they are lowering it, they must hoist the flag to the top before lowering it to the ground. Even though it’s a tricky routine, it is very important to make sure it is done properly!

Once a flag is lowered, it must be folded into a specific triangular shape to rest in for the night. Families of fallen American soldiers receive folded flags as a sign of respect for the hard work the soldier has done for his or her country.

Nicknames in History

Do you have any nicknames that your family members or friends have given you? These nicknames are special, because they are created by people who know you well, and who see you in a certain way. Just like you, the American flag has its nicknames, as well.

One of its oldest nicknames is “Old Glory,” which was given to an American flag that was very big––10 feet by 17 feet, to be exact! The flag was given its nickname by its owner, who was named William Drive, and who was a captain at sea. The nickname stuck, and people still use the nickname today. The flag is also commonly referred to as the “Stars and Stripes,” named after the design on the flag.

National Anthem

Do you know all of the words to the American National Anthem? Many people start and finish their day standing at attention to this important song, and it’s important that we show respect and stand when it is being played.

Have you ever wondered where the song came from? The song was written by a poet named Francis Scott Key. He was inspired to write the song when he saw the American flag flying over Baltimore’s Fort McHenry. Even though there was a battle going on, the flag remained unharmed, and the poet wanted to write a song about it. As a result, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was created!

If you still need to work on your national anthem singing, check out these lyrics to help you get all of the words down perfectly … and don’t forget to take off your hat!

1900s

The American flag has since become a very experienced traveler, with lots of individuals carrying the flag with them on trips all over the Earth, and beyond. In 1909, Robert Peary traveled to the North Pole, where he happily set into the ice an American flag that was sewn by his wife.

In 1963, another famous traveler by the name of Barry Bishop carried an American flag with him to the top of Mount Everest! Mount Everest is the largest mountain on the planet Earth, and Bishop set his flag proudly into its peak when he finally made it up there.

Did you know that the American flag has even made it into space? It’s true! In 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong packed an American flag with him when his team flew their rocket to Earth’s moon! This was a very important moment for Americans everywhere. Many countries had been trying to become the first country to make it to the moon, but American astronauts were able to complete the trip first.

Do you know the famous quote Neil Armstrong said when he took the first human steps on the moon? They were, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” How cool is that? Where do you think the American flag will end up next?

The Fourth of July

The Fourth of July is a very special day. Did you know that it is the birthday of the United States? Many people celebrate the day by wearing and showing off the red, white, and blue colors of the flag, and many people enjoy food, fireworks, and fun to celebrate this great country!

While the Fourth of July is very well-known for being America’s birthday, a new date began to take significance in the year 1885. A school teacher by the name of BJ Cigrand decided that on June 14th he and his students would celebrate “Flag Day” or “Flag Birthday,” in celebration of the American flag being created 108 years earlier. After that special day, many more people started to take notice of the celebration and wanted to be a part of it.

Within the next ten years, many people started to put together celebrations for Flag Day on June 14th. On June 14th 1891, the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia put on celebrations for Flag Day, and in the following years many more organizations started to celebrate the special day as well.

One of the largest celebrations of Flag Day took place in 1894, when the first children’s public school celebrations for Flag Day took place. There were more than 300,000 kids who took part in the events! There were lots of different speeches, and songs to sing, and children were given small American flags to take home.

On May 30th 1916, Flag Day was officially established by the proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson. It was a great day for Americans, because they could finally have a day to celebrate their country’s flag and all of the important things it represented! To make it official, President Truman signed an Act of Congress that stated June 14th would now always be National Flag Day for everyone to enjoy!

Do you celebrate National Flag Day?

Being Respectful

It’s always a great practice to show off your country’s flag and to be proud of where you come from. There are so many things you can wear to show your pride, including patriotic hats, t-shirts, pins, and more! However, it is important to remember, if you have an American flag, that you must always display it in the appropriate manner.

Throughout its history, the American flag has always been meant to be hoisted on a pole and fly freely. The flag is not meant to be worn, re-designed, or re-shaped for any reason! If you are celebrating America’s birthday or National Flag Day, make sure to show respect for the flag and display it in the proper manner.

A flag is a very important symbol for any person or country. A flag can represent what an individual values and what is important to them. The American flag has gone through a lot of changes since its creation in 1777, but it is still one of the most important symbols for the country.

If you want to start celebrating National Flag Day for the American flag, you can always start your own event at school or at home. There are lots of things you can do, including baking some flag-themed foods or wearing red, blue, and white. Use what you’ve learned today to help teach others about the history of the American flag, and to spread awareness of how the flag has changed over time.

If you could use any shapes or colors, what would your flag look like if you designed your own?

You Are Not Forgotten

2000px-United_States_POW-MIA_flag.svgIn rear windows, on motorcycles, flying on flag poles in front of businesses and homes, the POW-MIA flag has become an iconic symbol in America for the nation’s concern for military personnel missing and unaccounted for in foreign wars. The idea for such a flag was first thought of by Mary Helen Hoff, wife of Navy pilot Lieutenant Commander Michael Hoff who had been missing in action in Vietnam since January 7, 1970.

Hoff was a member of the National League of POW/MIA Families, an organization whose sole mission is “to obtain the release of all prisoners, the fullest possible accounting for the missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains of those who died serving our nation during the Vietnam War in Southeast Asia.” Created in 1969 by the wives of POWs in Southeast Asia, their purpose was originally to raise awareness about the mistreatment of POWs, and it grew into much more.

Feeling as though the organization needed a standard in which to spread the message of the organization, Hoff called the world’s oldest, well-known flag maker Annin Flagmakers in Verona, New Jersey. The company was honored to be chosen to make such a flag, representing so much for many families across the United States. They took it to their advertising agency to design, and the assignment was given to one of the graphic designers.

In 1972, Newt Heisley created the design for the now famous flag. Heisley was a veteran himself, a pilot in World War II who flew C-64 transports for the 433rd Troop Carrier Group and earned the bronze star for his service. He modeled the silhouette profile we readily recognize in the POW-MIA flag after his son who, at the time, was serving in the Marine Corps. In an interview with the Colorado Springs Gazette in 1997, Heisley told reporters that the flag “was intended for a small group. No one realized it was going to get national attention.”

But that’s exactly what happened. The flag was used to keep the POW-MIA issue fresh in the minds of Americans across the country. Finally, Congress passed a law in 1990 stating the flag was now recognized “as a symbol of our Nation’s concern and commitment to resolving as fully as possible the fates of Americans still prisoner, missing, and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. Thus ending the uncertainty for their families and the Nation.” It is now widely accepted to represent not only prisoners and missing from Southeast Asia, but all foreign wars.

Aside from Congress putting into law the recognition of the POW-MIA flag, many states have made it mandatory to fly the flag on state government buildings. Idaho became the first state to require the flag to be flown on flagpoles in front of every state building, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week  “or until such time as all our unaccounted for and missing members of the Armed Forces return.” The message “You are not forgotten” is being sent loud and clear, coast to coast, and felt in the heart of every American.

Know What You Are Celebrating

American Flag

American Flag. 4th of July City Decoration. Vintage Grading.

On the heels of Memorial Day, many people take the opportunity to post sentiments on social media about the true meaning of the holiday. Usually the three day weekend is an opportunity to get outside for cookouts, picnics, fireworks and just spending time with friends. But what are we celebrating?

With the bevy of posts on social media about supporting the veterans (always a great cause, without the need for a holiday to do so), it seems people have forgotten what the difference is between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Both are related to the military, and they both are symbolized by the American flag being waved throughout neighborhoods and businesses across America.

Memorial Day began three years after the Civil War ended, originally called Decoration Day. General John A. Logan, the head of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), declared May 30th as a day when men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice would be honored by decorating the graves of these fallen soldiers.

The first observance of a grand scale was in 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery. General and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant hosted the ceremony from their home on the property of the cemetery.  It concluded with the GAR, accompanied by children from Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home, decorating the graves with flowers and singing hymns as they made their way through. It is rumored he chose the end of May because flowers would be in bloom across the country at that time of year. 

Initially, the holiday was only to honor those who died in the Civil War. It wasn’t until after World War I that it was expanded to include all who gave the ultimate sacrifice in any American war. By an act of Congress, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday in 1971, to be observed on the last Monday in May. The holiday continues to be celebrated to this day, and many observers decorate graves on this day to truly honor those who have died for our country.

World War I was called “The Great War” and officially ended on June 28, 1919 with the signing of the Treaty at Versailles. However, the fighting stopped at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month when an armistice was called between the Allies and Germany; hence, the symbolic nature of November 11th, Veterans Day.

In November 1919, President Wilson declared the 11th to be Armistice Day. His speech was moving and powerful:

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations …” (Schmid, “Yesterday’s Reflections: A Repository of Memories”, pg 78)

An act of Congress on May 13, 1938 declared November 11th as a national holiday, honoring the veterans from World War I, the war to end all wars. A mere three years later, World War II began, which marked the largest mobilization of military our nation had ever seen. In 1954, the 83rd Congress amended the initial act to include all American veterans who served our country.

Around the world, November 11th is a day to remember those who fought for their country. In Canada, it is known as Remembrance Day, and countries from Africa to Australia, Britain to South America all honor those who gave selflessly to their country.

Lieutenant Colonel John McRae was a Canadian soldier fighting on the Western Front in World War I who died in 1918. A physician and soldier, he wrote a poem that is without a doubt the most famous poem from the Great War. It encompasses the emotions and heart-felt feelings of those celebrating Veterans Day and Memorial Day:

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

So, when you enjoy the holiday with a day off from work and a family barbecue, take a moment to remember why these holidays exist, and honor our military accordingly.

Top Care Packages and Gifts for Military Servicemen

Is your husband (brother, father, son, uncle, cousin, or friend) deployed with the military? Chances are he is missing you just as much as you are missing him. You can send him a care package and boost his morale. It will also help you feel better about dealing with the time apart. Maybe you are unsure of what to send, or how to send it. Check out these top gifts for military service men!

Since you cannot mail yourself to your loved one, take a look at this list of goodies every man in the service would love and appreciate receiving.

One of the primary gifts you can give to your loved one overseas is an American flag. You can have it personalized with a flag case, or send a standard flag. It represents more than you think. It symbolizes freedom. Your soldier will feel honored to receive one, and it will give him the courage to continue fighting for our nation’s beliefs. He will fly it proudly in his room or designated area. It is a daily reminder that his sacrifice means something special; his fighting is not in vain. The American flag reflects bravery, independence, liberty, and justice. It is the perfect gift to give to your military servicemen.

Food and Drink

Powdered drink mix—there is an assortment of drink powders that can be mixed with water. Depending on the weather, you can send hot or cold beverages. Cocoa, coffee, tea bags, and creamers are ideal for the colder times whereas lemonade and iced tea are perfect for the summer months.

Snacks — this is a broad category, but a few tips will make the mailing process easier. Send hard containers because bags may explode under high pressure. If you want to send multiple treats, consider putting them in smaller Ziploc bags, so he can carry a small package with him. Salty snacks like nuts, chips, pretzels, and flavored popcorn will encourage your soldier to drink more water. Snack cakes, cheese crackers, and cookies are very popular snacks. Jelly beans, beef jerky, and sunflower seeds are also delicious.

Protein treats are also in high demand like energy bars, tuna fish, and summer sausage. If you send any meat, make sure it says USDA beef on the package.

You should avoid chocolate, especially if your loved one is in a warm climate for fear of it melting. Gum should be sealed in a Ziploc bag to keep it from getting gooey. This also goes for any other soft candy. Make sure you mail extras so that he can share with his friends.

Meal Enhancers — Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) are not always the ideal dinner choice. You can send meal enhancers like hot sauce, mustard, relish, ketchup, and other condiments, which will make the food taste better. Seasoned salt, ramen noodles, and other foods that can be easily mixed with MREs are perfect.

Personal Items

The best way to send personal items is as travel-sized containers. You want to mail small containers; not aerosol cans. Even if it is brand new, be sure to cover the item with plastic wrap (you can open it, wrap it, and recap it). This will help prevent any spillage.

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss
  • Shaving lotion and disposable razors
  • Cotton swabs, packaged tissues, and baby wipes
  • Shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, and body wash
  • Eye drops, lip balm, lotion, and medicated foot powder
  • Aspirin, Vicks VapoRub, and topical cream pain relievers like IcyHot
  • Goggle-styled sunglasses and sunscreen
  • Socks and underwear that are 100% cotton (long
Fun and Games

Guys usually want something to do while deployed (outside of the typical drills and combat). During their downtime, they will need to pass the time. You can send an assortment of things that pertain to entertainment. If your soldier enjoyed playing a particular game at home, he would love to play it while overseas, too.

  • Reading material — paperback books, current magazines, and comic books are all great reading material.
  • Word games and puzzles — jigsaw puzzles, word searches, and crossword puzzles are a perfect way to pass the time.
  • Sporting gear — you can send small things like foam footballs, hacky-sacs, Frisbees, yo-yos, and other fun sports games.
  • Other games — dice, cards, and plastic model kits are another wonderful way to pass the time.
  • Electronics — portable equipment works best when it comes to DVD players and CD players. Do not forget the music and movies! Handheld electronic games, Amazon Kindles, iPads, iPods, and laptops are also fun.
  • Batteries — the most popular sizes are AA and D, but make sure you remove the batteries, so the equipment does not turn on during shipment. Anytime mail carriers hear a buzzing, vibrating, booming noise, or ticking; they will go into bomb mode.
  • Writing material — pens, pencils, paper, envelopes, and stamps are always in high demand.
  • Disposable and digital cameras
  • Phone cards — you can get a good deal on oversea minutes!
Reminders of Home

Every soldier misses his family. Sending a handwritten letter is one of the best gifts of all! Even if you are talking about your daily routine or regular at-home activities, your loved one will cherish it. Photographs, drawings, children’s artwork and schoolwork, a scrapbook with mementos, and a homemade videotape are all lovely gifts.

What Not to Send

Depending where your loved one is stationed, you will have to be careful of what you send. For example, it is not wise to send anything offensive to the Middle Eastern or Persian Gulf areas. The country will monitor what is being brought into their country, so you do not want to give your soldier any extra grief. The United States Postal Service also lists the military restrictions on its website. Things that offend the Islamic faith or usually off limits including the following:

  • Pork and pork by-products
  • Obscene material like semi-nude or nude persons, pornographic images, or sexual items
  • Alcohol
  • Unauthorized political material
  • Bibles in bulk — of course, it is okay to send a Bible to your loved one, but do not mail a stack of Bibles that you want to be passed out. Anything that is contrary to the Islamic faith should be kept at bay.
Packing Tips

It can take up to two weeks for your care package to reach the designated country. However, more time is likely to pass before your soldier gets his hands on it. When sending food, drinks, and other goodies, keep this in mind because you do not want anything to spoil or get ruined by climate extremes.

  • Double check size and weight restrictions — rule of thumb say packages cannot be bigger than 108 inches in total circumference. This can be calculated by measuring the total width around the package plus its total length. In general, it should be the size of a shoebox. Do not mail a package with an unauthorized label. For example, if you use wine or liquor box, it will be deemed nonmailable immediately. Priority mail boxes can be picked up at your local post office for free.
  • Include a card with the contents — write the soldier’s name and your name on the card along with a list of the specific materials. That way, if for any reason the package gets opened or tossed around, the mail carriers will know what to repack.
  • Number your packages — because you can only send small boxes, you may want to send more than one at a time. It will help if you number your boxes and letters, just in case it takes a while for one to reach your loved one. He can be on the lookout for the missing number.
  • Always use Ziploc bags — this goes for anything that may spill or leak!
  • Double and triple wrap fragile items — feel free to use reusable packing material like tissues, local newspapers, popcorn-filled baggies, beanbag-style stuffed toys, and other materials that will cushion your products. Plus, your loved one can also use each of the wrapping materials for other purposes.
  • Write out the complete address — the package should clearly list the service member’s name, unit name (including the ship, squadron, etc.), APO/FPO address, and the nine-digit ZIP code.
  • Mail packages early — this is true all year-round, but especially during the holiday season. Millions of pounds of mail will be shipped in the month of December alone.
Other Rules and Regulations

Sending mail across the state or the country is subject to rules and regulations, so mailing a care package overseas are no different. In fact, it must adhere to that many more standards. In order to make sure your loved one receives your gifts on time, you need to ensure you follow all of these rules and regulations.

You do not want to write the name of the foreign country on the package because it will be tossed into the traditional international mail system rather than the military roundup. This will delay your package significantly, and will also cost more money. Instead of going through exchange offices and post offices, military mail is sorted by the United States Postal Service and then sent to the designated military hubs. Military postal service members then handle the mail.

As mentioned before, it is crucial that you list the APO/FPO address on the package along with the military ZIP code. If you are unsure of the correct code, you can review the website of Operation Home Front.

Although following all the rules, regulations, and packing tips can be overwhelming, it is wise to do so. The first few care packages might be difficult to mail, but you will get used to it, and your soldier will love you for it.

Gifts after a Safe Return Home

Once your military servicemen return home, you can continue to give them unique gifts. Personalized items are the most heartfelt. Your father, husband, brother, uncle, cousin, or friend will cherish your thoughtful gifts. If you need a few ideas on what to give him for Christmas, birthdays, other special occasions, or just because, you should consider these items:

  • Flags and flag cases
  • Garden flags, garden stones, and yard stakes
  • Ornaments
  • Pendants
  • Plaques
  • Picture frames
  • Key rings
  • Paperweights
  • Blankets and Afghans
  • Banners

You can make them personalized by having their name and rank engraved, a picture added, or any other special touch you deem worthy. It is best to save these types of gifts for a welcoming home party. It will give them something to look forward to once they get home (although seeing you again will be the best and most priceless gift ever).

Observing National Flag Day

american-flag-825730_1280While the Fourth of July and Memorial Day Weekend may receive almost all of the patriotic glory, so to speak, one particular holiday remains consistently overlooked yet universally beloved: Flag Day.

Celebrated annually on June 14th, and officially established as a national day of recognition by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, the day commemorates the official adoption of the American flag on June 14, 1777, by a resolution passed by the Second Continental Congress. (The U.S. Army celebrates the Army’s birthday on this day as well.)

Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Scouts, 4-H groups, and numerous other patriotic communities around the country make use of the day to educate interested individuals on the history of our flag and the traditions surrounding it.

A Brief History of National Flag Day: Origins

One of the key players in the founding of National Flag Day was Bernard J. Cigrand, a child of Luxembourgian immigrants. Inspired by his father’s love for the United States and the sacrifices he made to establish a home here for his wife and children, Cigrand nurtured a love for the American flag from his earliest years that would carry through the rest of his life.

In 1885, as a mere nineteen-year-old teacher at Stony Hill School, he assigned essays to his students on the importance of the American flag, its history, and its significance. That same year, Cigrand enrolled in dental school and, despite working hard enough to graduate at the top of his class, he spent much of his precious free time dedicated to promoting official recognition of the flag by the government.

Almost immediately upon graduating, Cigrand spoke to the Chicago organization The Sons of America, citing the many benefits that would stem from establishing a national holiday celebrating the flag. He was thus soon appointed the editor-in-chief of their new magazine, The American Standard, and would go on to write hundreds of articles in countless publications advocating a national flag day.

Flag Day Kicks Off

On the third Saturday of June in 1894, the first Flag Day celebration hosted by public schools was held in Lincoln, Humboldt, Douglas, Garfield, and Washington Parks, with over 300,000 children in attendance. The next several decades would see 36 governors, hundreds of mayors of both big cities and small towns, and no less than five presidents send delegates and official statements to these events sanctioning the celebration and commemoration of an official Flag Day.

On June 14, 1916, Wilson finally declared the day a national holiday. At 50 years old, this was the crowning achievement of Cigrand’s life and the fruition of years of a labor of love, igniting a fire for this simple patriotic cause in the hearts of millions of Americans. The Chicago Tribune would later write that Cigrand “almost singlehandedly”  brought the holiday into the national consciousness.

Thank You, Pennsylvania!

That is not to say, however, that dozens of other individuals were not equally as instrumental in the establishment of a national Flag Day. George Bolch, the principal of one of the first free kindergartens in the United States, celebrated Flag Day at his school in 1889.

Intriguingly enough, many of these patriots hailed from Pennsylvania. In 1893, the Colonial Dames of Pennsylvania President Elizabeth Duane Gillespie, a descendant of Ben Franklin with a vested interested in her country’s history, fought to pass legislation requiring the display of the American flag on all public buildings in the city of Philadelphia. As a result, many flag enthusiasts still credit Philadelphia as the first home of Flag Day.

In 1888, William T. Kerr, a Pittsburgh native and future inhabitant of Yeadon, Pennsylvania, founded the American Flag Day Association of Western Pennsylvania. He would then go on to attend President Truman’s 1949 signing of the Act of Congress that would officiate the observance of National Flag Day. Furthermore, the state of Pennsylvania was the first state (in 1937) to officiate Flag Day as a holiday.

Celebrating Flag Day Today

National Flag Day is, of course, celebrated and recognized all over the country, in schools, on television, and on the radio. The National Flag Day Foundation hosts a unique program that begins with the singing of the National Anthem, a lovely ceremonial raising of the flag, and a reciting of the Pledge of the Allegiance with all present.

At this event, and many others around the country, there are musical salutes and air flyovers from the Armed Forces and other branches of the military. It is quite the spectacle! The streets are usually closed for a parade that features hundreds of military and marching units; local high school bands, color guards, and other groups and members of the local performing arts community; Boy and Girl Scouts, 4-H clubs, and floats.

During the week of Flag Day, the sitting president will make an official statement asking Americans to fly their flags publicly; all government buildings must do so as well. Many organizations, such as the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House in Baltimore and the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia, all host their own events and parades as well.

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