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Pro: U.S. flag remains an honored symbol for many

By ALLISON MILES
June 13, 2010 at 1:13 a.m.

Boy Scout Kyle Kucera, 8, clutches a fragment of the stripes of an American flag as he prepares to drop it into a fire pit during a flag retirement ceremony. Either burning or burying are the proper protocol for retiring the flag.

Flag rules

The flag code includes a wide variety of rules and regulations surrounding Old Glory. Here are a few of the rules:

The flag should only be displayed from sunrise to sunset. It may remain raised 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during darkness.

The flag should never touch anything underneath it, including the ground, floor or water.

The flag, when it falls into disrepair, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally. It should remain aloft and free.

The United States flag should be displayed in the center and at the highest point, when being displayed with a group of flags.

Source: www.usflag.org.

Do Americans honor the flag?

K.B. Hallmark clutched an American flag in his hands, his gaze fixed on the Scouts who sat before him at Riverside Park.

The flag's bold red and white stripes waved in the afternoon breeze as the young boys awaited the flag retirement ceremony.

The United States flag has changed through the years, said Hallmark, vice president for the Scouts' council of volunteers.

It began with 13 stars and 13 stripes to represent the original colonies. As the country grew, the design kept the 13 stripes but added a star for each state.

"One of the problems Congress had to address early on was what do we do with the flag when it becomes torn, tattered, maybe a little bit dirty," he said. "Or, if it's been used in battle, it might be shot full of holes."

The answer, he said, was to reverently retire it, either by burying it - a practice rarely used - or to dispose of it by fire.

"We are not burning a flag today," Hallmark said to the crowd. "We are going to be burning parts of it."

He cut the starry blue field from the cloth, explaining it was no longer a flag, but a reverent banner. And, after the Scouts said the pledge of allegiance one last time, he dropped first the blue field, followed by the stripes, onto the fire.Flag Day is Monday, but not everyone believes Americans honor Old Glory the way previous generations did. Here, Crossroads residents offer their opinions.

Certain groups, such as Scouts, still respect the flag as older generations did, according to a Boy Scout leader.

Scouts learn flag etiquette, how to fold it and the proper ceremonies early on, said K.B. Hallmark, vice president for the council of volunteers with the Scouts.

"And they learn from the start that we're serious about it," Hallmark said, smoothing his hair beneath his khaki-colored cap.

It's all part of the Scouting ethos, Hallmark said, explaining they believe a Scout owes duty to himself, his creator and his country.

Donaven Webb, a member of Cub Scout Troop 422, said he and his friends all respect the flag as they're supposed to.

"Every morning, we'll have a flag ceremony. We walk with the flag and we put it up," the 8-year-old said. "And, if it gets snagged on something, we get a new one so the flag doesn't have holes in it."

For others, the ongoing war keeps patriotic ideals at the forefront of people's minds, said Erica Slusher, a student who recently moved to Victoria from Florida.

"Sometimes I think people forget that, even when they don't agree with things the government does, they can still stand with the flag and be patriotic," she said. "I think that's what Flag Day is about."

From a historical viewpoint, honoring the flag is really a 20th century phenomenon, said Karen Hagan, associate professor of history at the Victoria College.

Most literature indicates that before the Civil War, honoring the flag was haphazard and largely up to the individual citizen, she said. Flags often came in different shapes and sizes, while some had stars sewn on basically wherever they might fit.

The national flag code, which dictates how to dispose of the flag, handle it and the like, dates back to the 1920s and was adopted by Congress in 1942, she added.

"The official way that we treat the flag is very recent in our history," Hagan said. "In a sense, we're more reverent about flags today than we were in 1910 or 1890 or 1840."

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