Cullman veterans and residents alike celebrate Flag Day today with a host events throughout the area.

Flag Day originates from the June 14, 1877, Congressional observation of the Centennial of the birth of the national flag. However, June 14 was not designated a national holiday until Aug. 3, 1949, under President Harry Truman.

Local veteran George Mann will celebrate Flag Day at a program held at the Elks Lodge at 7 p.m.

The American flag represents different things to different people. For Mann it is a symbol of heritage and military service.

“We fought for this flag,” Mann said. “The American Flag has always been in my family, and it always will be. The flag has been torn, shot at and burned, but it’s still up there. We must never forget that.”

The Elk’s program will showcase the American Flag at different stages of existence. The flag has gone through numerous changes over the years as more states were added to the Union. In fact, it has changed more than any other flag in history. The Elks will dress in uniforms from various American wars and speak on the significance of the flag.

North Alabama Woodmen of the World fraternal coordinator Philip Robertson also has a strong connection with the American flag. He celebrates each Flag Day at North Alabama Youth Camp in Blountsville, conducting flag retirement ceremonies. Robertson said Woodmen of the World has become a drop off point for all types of flags.

According to Robertson, a flag must meet certain criteria to qualify for retirement. The flags are usually older — ones that have been worn or tattered beyond repair. The retirement ceremonies are taken very seriously by those involved. Ceremonies aren’t reserved for Flag Day. Robertson will hold weekly retirement ceremonies throughout the summer.

“It’s kind of like a funeral service for the flag,” he said. “We’ll get at least 500 done this summer,” he said.

In addition to retiring the flags, Robertson educates children on American flag history and the importance of the flag in society.

Because of the importance placed on the American flag, folding rituals and standards of etiquette have been established. According to ushistory.org, there are 12 folds, each representing or honoring the religious principles on which this county was founded. For example, the first fold is a symbol of life, the seventh, a tribute to the Armed Forces. The twelfth represents and glorifies the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost.

Proper etiquette when handling the American Flag includes never displaying the flag with the Union down and never touching any part to the ground. The flag should never be worn as apparel or marked on. When the flag is no longer fit for display, it should be disposed of in a dignified way, preferably burning.

Throughout history, though, people have burned, ripped and used the flag for other unintended purposes. According to Mann, these acts of desecration are an insult to the country and those who give their lives to defend it.

“I don’t think persons should wear the American flag as a suit,” Mann said. “I saw one guy who used the flag as a rug in front of the commode. Those kinds of things just aren’t right.”

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