ENID, Okla. — Editor’s note: This column was first published Sept. 15, 2002.
They are everywhere.
They’re on jackets, T-shirts, caps, vests, jewelry, sweatshirts and neckties. They adorn the uniforms of soldiers, police, firefighters and athletes.
They are on the bumpers and back windows of cars and pickups, stuck in the windows of homes and businesses and hanging from poles nailed to houses and stuck in the dirt of flower gardens.
They are American flags, and they have made a comeback in this country ever since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
More flags than ever have made an appearance in the weeks surrounding the first anniversary of the attacks.
Immediately in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, stores all over the country sold out of American flags. Companies that manufacture flags had to expand production lines and hire additional staff to keep up with the demand.
The red, white and blue was everywhere. It still is, as a matter of fact. But flags are not always being treated with proper respect.
The United States Code, Title 36, Chapter 10, is generally known as the “Flag Code.” It covers the proper display of, and respect for, the American flag.
It states flags can be displayed horizontally, vertically or from poles angling from the front of buildings.
The union, or the blue field of white stars, should be to the top of the flagpole or away from the building from which it is hanging.
The flag always should be displayed in a position of prominence, above or ahead of other flags.
The flag never should be allowed to touch the ground, floor, water or anything else beneath it. The flag never should be used as a curtain, ceiling decoration or bed spread. It also shouldn’t be used to carry or hold anything.
The flag should never be fastened, used, displayed or stored in such a way that damages or soils it.
The flag never should be used for advertising purposes. The flag never should be printed on cushions or handkerchiefs, or paper napkins, boxes or anything else that is disposable.
The flag never should be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft.
Even flag lapel pins, which have become commonplace since the Sept. 11 attacks, are governed by the Flag Code.
They should always be worn on the left lapel near the heart.
The U.S. flag often is referred to as Old Glory. This sobriquet originated with ship’s captain Stephen Driver.
In 1831, Driver’s ship, the Charles Doggett, was leaving on a mission to rescue the mutineers of the H.M.S. Bounty.
As a sendoff, some of Driver’s friends presented him with a huge American flag containing 24 stases. As the flag was raised on the ship’s mast, caught the breeze and unfurled, Driver was heard to exclaim, “Old Glory!”
Driver retired from the sea and moved to Nashville, where his Old Glory flag became famous.
When Tennessee seceded from the Union at the start of the Civil War, Rebels searched Driver’s home, determined to destroy his flag, but it was never found.
On Feb. 25, 1892, Nashville fell to Union forces. Soldiers raised a small American flag over the state capitol.
But people asked Driver whether his Old Glory still existed.
Accompanied by soldiers, he went home and began ripping up the quilt atop his bed. He pulled the quilt apart and there was the original Old Glory.
Driver pulled the flag from its hiding place and returned with the soldiers to the Tennessee capitol building.
Despite his age — he was 60 at the time — Driver climbed to the capitol’s tower to replace the small flag with his large one.
Driver’s grave in the old Nashville City Cemetery is one of only three places authorized by an act of Congress where the flag may be flown 24 hours a day.
The Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, very much in the news of late, originally began “I pledge allegiance to my flag ...” and did not include the words “under God.” “My flag” became “the flag,” in 1924 and “under God” was added in 1954.
The flag, the symbol of our national pride and patriotism, has become fashionable again.
But please, treat Old Glory with the respect and honor it deserves.
Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.