The "Old Glory" Story

To veterans throughout American history, the Stars and Stripes has served as a symbol of their service, and as a continuing testimony that the service was worthwhile.

Since many flags of early America contained stripes in their design and several others had star devices, there are varying accounts of when and where the first Stars and Stripes was flown. Flag history experts agree, however, that the first Stars and Stripes flag to have the general form we recognize today did not appear until the summer of 1777, when the Continental Congress formally resolved “That the flag of the United States be 13 stripes, alternate red and white, that the union be 13 white stars in a blue field representing a new constellation.”

Interestingly, the Congress did not specify the arrangement or shape of the stars, the direction of the stripes, or the relative size of the various components. Consequently, military units and civilian public alike flew a confusing array of local, state and home-made interpretations of the congressional flag description.

It was not until 1912 that the flag was finally assured a uniform appearance, when President Taft signed an executive order prescribing the relative size, shape and positioning of the flag’s components.

A subject of almost as much debate as the shape and design of the flag has been the question of how and when to display the Stars and Stripes.

Since 1942, when a law was first enacted to govern actual display of the flag, the guiding statement has been that the flag should be flown on “days when weather permits.” The generally accepted interpretation was that the colors could be shown only between sunrise and sundown, and, even then, not during inclement weather.

Growing sentiment that “Old Glory” should be kept flying irrespective of darkness and foul weather culminated in 1976, when President Ford signed legislation providing that: “When a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.” The new law also permits the Stars and Stripes to remain flying through inclement weather when a flag of all-weather materials is used.

In addition to its historical significance for permitting the national colors to remain aloft indefinitely for patriotic effect, the 1976 legislation may be remembered for giving life to “Old Glory.” The new flag code contains the provision that: “The flag represents a loving country and is itself considered a living thing.”

SUGGESTED COMMUNITY PROGRAMS

Veterans Day activities afford the schools and community an excellent opportunity to develop and produce a variety of cooperative programs ranging from modest to full involvement. Participation by the various patriotic organizations can play a vital role in the projects suggested in this guide.

1. Indoor Ceremony

Depending on the facilities available, an indoor assembly program can provide a most meaningful tribute to Veterans Day. The scope of such a program may be large enough to permit invitations to the community at large. The following ceremony outline with prepared Veterans Day remarks represents a typical one-hour program.

Prelude and Posting of Colors — As the audience enters to be seated, a school or community musical organization may offer several appropriate selections. A procession and posting of colors is always a stirring event. Local veterans service organizations often participate in such programs with their impressive array of banners and flags.

Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and National Anthem — The program chairman, school principal or student body president should invite the audience to stand and join in the Pledge of Allegiance and singing of the National Anthem.

Introductory Remarks — The tone for the program may be set by appropriate introductory remarks lasting several minutes. The following remarks may be used or, if desired, the President’s Veterans Day Proclamation may be incorporated.

Today there is, and perhaps there always will be, conflict in the world. But the United States fortunately enjoys peace and freedom as she enters her third century.

Like other things of great value, this security did not come cheaply. Part of the cost has already been paid by Americans who answered the call to military duty when their country needed them. They served in nine wars from the Revolution to Vietnam, earning the special distinction “veteran.”

But another part of freedom’s cost must continue to be paid long after the guns have been silenced. This debt is owed America’s veterans.

Some need their country’s help, even as their country once needed theirs, to readjust, to recover from wounds or to overcome hardships of age and infirmity. Most need and ask nothing in repayment of their sacrifices.

Let us continue to help those veterans in need with the greatest possible compassion and efficiency. For the rest, since they ask no special thanks, we can best pay tribute to them this day by recognizing what they have achieved, and in joining them in their resolve to keep America strong and free.

Special Musical Selection — A band or choral group should offer one of the more impressive patriotic selections available. This affords an opportunity for the musical organization to exhibit its talents in a most stirring and dramatic manner.

Introduction of Guests — Dignitaries selected as special guests may include local government officials, school alumni with distinguished military service, veterans from the community who represent different periods of service and faculty members who are veterans.

Principal Speaker — Your principal speaker should be invited far enough in advance to allow adequate preparation for your program.

Student Essay or Reading — In school programs, student body participation may be underscored by inclusion in the program of various presentations by individual pupils. Selected essays from school-wide competition may be offered by the student-author. A reading of a well-known patriotic address by an American President or famous military hero by a talented student can be effective. There are a number of published musicals/narratives which could add greatly to your program.

Moment of Silence — Taps — While Veterans Day is typically a tribute to America’s living veterans, it is always appropriate to include a moment of respect for those who gave their lives for their country. The signing of the World War I Armistice took place in a railway coach near the battle zone in France. The bugles sounded “cease firing” and the hostilities ended, marking a most significant moment in world history. Although 11 a.m. remains a traditional hour for this type of tribute, a moment of silence is appropriate at any point in the program. This may be followed by an instrumental or vocal rendition of “Taps.”

Closing — Accompanied by appropriate music, assembled colors should be retired, following which the audience may file out.

2. Flag Raising Ceremony

Weather permitting, outdoor flag raising ceremonies permit group participation in an event which by its routine usually escapes attention. Such a ceremony, although brief, should include the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the National Anthem. A special guest may be invited to participate.

Moment of Silence — Taps — While Veterans Day is typically a tribute to America’s living veterans, it is always appropriate to include a moment of respect for those who gave their lives for their country. The signing of the World War I Armistice took place in a railway coach near the battle zone in France. The bugles sounded “cease firing” and the hostilities ended, marking a most significant moment in world history. Although 11 a.m. remains a traditional hour for this type of tribute, a moment of silence is appropriate at any point in the program. This may be followed by an instrumental or vocal rendition of “Taps.”

Closing — Accompanied by appropriate music, assembled colors should be retired, following which the audience may file out.

2. Flag Raising Ceremony

Weather permitting, outdoor flag raising ceremonies permit group participation in an event which by its routine usually escapes attention. Such a ceremony, although brief, should include the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the National Anthem. A special guest may be invited to participate.

3. Musical Programs

Veterans Day offers an excellent opportunity for school or community musical organizations to display their talents. A midday concert at the school or at a central location in the community can be especially dedicated to Veterans Day. An innovative program might include selections known to have been popular during America’s wars.

4. Poster Contest

The creative talents of students can be encouraged through participation in a school-wide Veterans Day poster contest. Winners should be appropriately recognized and awarded certificates. Local newspapers should be invited to photograph the winning entries.

5. School Newspaper Activity

Feature stories on Veterans Day can be developed by the staffs of school publications. Publish a roster of faculty members who are veterans. Describe other Veterans Day activities in individual classrooms.

6. Library Activities

School or community libraries can prepare lists of recommended reading material suitable for Veterans Day. An appropriate display of book jackets or a special shelf containing selected publications can be used to call attention to the project.

7. Football Games

Veterans Day is observed at the time of the year when schools and clubs are engaged in football competition. The presentation of the colors and playing of the National Anthem may be keyed to Veterans Day by an appropriate public address announcement. Half-time presentations by school bands also afford an ideal opportunity to offer special patriotic selections and marching routines. Card section displays are another popular device that may be used to visually recognize Veterans Day.

8. School Cafeteria Activities

Patriotic decorations in school dining areas would add a colorful tribute to Veterans Day. Create special menu items such as decorated cupcakes or cookies.

9. Historical Groups

Veterans Day programs may be given added importance in your school or community through appropriate cooperation with local historical organizations. In many areas, these patriotic groups have organized period uniformed flag bearers, fife and drum corps and other marching and musical units. There are many ways these colorful performers may be a part of a dignified program that observes this special day.

10. Additional Ideas

The suggestions above do not, of course, cover all the possible commemorative activities Veterans Day inspires. Encouraging the active imaginations of those on your program committee will help assure a meaningful salute to the men and women who answered their country’s call to service and sacrifice.

SUGGESTED CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES

Smaller school units can also develop meaningful programs which can personally involve every student. Maturity of the group should be considered when planning projects associated with the observance of Veterans Day. Activities which are entertaining as well as instructive are sure to attract the interest of younger children. Students in middle and secondary schools should be encouraged to engage in research and writing projects particularly in association with civics and history courses.

1. Essays

Themes and compositions on a variety of subjects can be included in Veterans Day writing assignments. First person accounts of military service of a relative or friend can help develop narrative skills. Assign students to investigate the various veterans services offered by government agencies in their community. Write about veterans who are receiving educational benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Describe various veterans memorials which may be located nearby.

2. Art Projects

The colorful and varied uniforms worn by members of the Armed Forces throughout our history offer students of all ages ideal subjects to draw and paint. The official emblems and seals of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard can be portrayed by students in a variety of methods, such as mosaics, applique, decoupage as well as the traditional painting and drawing approaches.

3. Costume Pageant

Elementary school children enjoy opportunities to create and exhibit costume items. Making colored construction paper hats representing various military eras is a modest and effective way of interesting pupils in Veterans Day subjects. A more ambitious project might include re-creating uniforms worn by service personnel through the years.

4. Student's Family Tree

Ask each student to research and list all of his known relatives who served in the Armed Forces. Since more than half the United States population is comprised of veterans, their dependents and survivors, each student should be able to contribute something.

Published by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington DC.

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