Long may she wave

Thank you, fellow veteran Ray Bagby, for your letter of Oct. 31, including your reminder that at least those African American athletes kneeling during the national anthem at pro football games do so to call attention to a perceived social injustice. This retired veteran also has the utmost respect for our flag and took an oath to defend what it stands for. From no pledge or salute at all to the Bellamy and Nazi salutes, our flag has represented this nation proudly for many years. It symbolizes strength and when needed can be used to call attention to issues facing our nation. Perhaps there is a need for a history lesson.

On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution which stated: “Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” Until 1892, there was no such thing as the Pledge of Allegiance. After the Pledge was written, a salute was developed to accompany it. Called the Bellamy salute, it becomes a significant issue 50 years later.

Prior to June 14, 1923, no federal or state regulations governed display of the U.S. flag. It was on this date the National Flag Code was adopted by the National Flag Conference attended by representatives of the Army, Navy and some 66 other national groups. The procedures provided guidance to display the flag. A few minor changes were made a year later.

Prior to the baby boomer generation, generations of citizens were taught the Bellamy salute: While standing for the Pledge of Allegiance, “each person, man, women or child, will extend his or her right arm straight forward, angling slightly upward, fingers pointing directly ahead.” Congress passed a joint resolution which was amended on Dec. 22, 1942 to become public law. Rather than the Bellamy salute, one places his hand over his heart. For millions of citizens, a solution to the stiff-armed salute was found 76 Decembers ago. It’s a safe bet the Bellamy salute is never coming back.

In 1954, at President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s urging, Congress legislated that “under God” be added to the pledge.

Criminal penalties for certain acts of desecration to the flag were contained in the 1989 Flag Code. It was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1990.

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 contained an amendment to allow un-uniformed service members, military retirees and veterans to render a hand salute during the hoisting, lowering or passing of the U.S. flag. A later amendment further authorized hand salutes during the national anthem by veterans.

The code is a guide for all handling and display of the Stars and Stripes. It does not impose penalties for misuse of the United States Flag.

I’m proud to have served and defended the constitutional rights of my fellow citizens.

Jim Igleheart, Waco