By Arnie Leshin
I was especially delighted to see all 120 countries march into vast Tokyo Stadium to top off the bright, colorful and peaceful opening ceremonies of the 132nd Summer Olympics on Friday night.
One by one they happily strolled in, from tiny nations of only 2 athletes to the larger ones like the United States, Great Britain, China and host Japan. There was joy on every face of the flag wavers, everyone sported bright smiles, the small flags were waved to the few allowed in the stands, to the host nation’s nearby women dancers who cheered them on.
The large flag that fronts the march of each country is held by one of each gender and is tossed from side to side in good patriotic faith. This sets the tone for the marchers behind them, so everyone can wave with joy.
It’s nothing new, it’s done at every International Olympics, summer or winter. Let’s call it flag etiquette.
I was born and raised in Brooklyn, one of the New York city boroughs. I first learned about our land when in elementary school during World War II we rehearsed “general quarters” by sitting in the halls to first reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and then singing “God Bless America” and all the other patriotic songs we had learned.
For the Pledge of Allegiance and for our national anthem — Star Spangled Banner — we were told to place a hand on our hearts, sing along, and honor old glory, our red, white and blue flag that American Frances Scott Key wrote the words for as he stood on a British ship on the shores of Baltimore being fired upon by the United States on land during the Revolutionary War.
That was what I was tough. Never heard anything else. And you might guess, I am stymied, totally disappointed to see people invent something cruel, as in taking a knee as our national anthem is played, sang or whatever or just kneeing or as some athletic teams instead do, just skip what has become the opening mess, and what is booed by fans in the stands who do have a belief in this country.
It’s all dumb to me, I hate to see this, I always think that if no one likes to be patriotic, doesn’t want to respect our flag while living in this great country, should move, drive elsewhere, take a hike, a bus, a plane, a boat, and see what we believe differs from what we have.
I am a veteran, I served in the United States Navy. I sailed the sea, fought on the ground, I never lost respect for our stars and stripes. I never forgot the good old days when all those memorable patriotic songs were heard, and it’s sad, but true, that nobody writes them anymore.
Yes, this grand old country has changed, but I haven’t. I will always salute the red, white and blue flag. I will always sing along. I will always place my hand on my heart.
Now the flag of our nation means many different things to veterans like me. It represents the solemn oath we took to defend our country and its citizens when we entered the military ranks. It can stand as a symbol of the freedoms and privileges we enjoy as Americans and the sacrifices that have been made to ensure others have a chance to pursue the same.
We know many across this land that want to pay proper respect to the Stars and Stripes. The following guide will help ensure your flag is looking ship-shape wherever and whenever you choose to fly it or wave it.
(1) The flag should never rest on the ground.
(2) Flags shouldn’t be used as clothing.
(3) On single flagpoles, the American flag should be on top, and no other flag should be larger.
(4) A flag should be kept dry and folded properly into a triangle with the union visible.
(5) When a flag becomes tattered, damaged or otherwise worn out, it should be retired and properly disposed of.
(6) Remember, to most it is a poignant and sometimes a painful reminder of those lost in battle, whether the flag be draped over a casket or carefully folded and placed in the arms of a loved one.
(7) Even for those who may see the flag as mere fabric and thread, it is inexorably linked to the spirit of our country — a red, white and blue reflection of all that our country is, was and can be.
(8) For flagpoles, the flag should be flown at half-mast on Memorial Day until noon, then raised.
(9) Flags should fly from sunrise to sunset and may be flown at night if properly illuminated.
(10) Fly the flag at half-mast during times of national mourning.
(11) Whether the flag is hung vertically or horizontally, the union (blue section) should always be in the upper left side.
And last but certainly not least, always respect our red, white and blue stars and stripes by placing your hand on your heart, singing along with our national anthem, and you would be doing what all Americans should do. The word is respect, as in United States of America, and it will always be God Bless America.