On June 14, 1777, our flag was adopted by the Second Continental Congress. June 14 was officially established as Flag Day in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson.
I didn’t know these facts off the top of my head; I learned them this week at school. Specifically, I learned it from the students of St. Thomas the Apostle at their wonderful annual Flag Day celebration.
Over 100 children marched through the cafeteria of St. Thomas, waving flags and wearing handmade red, white and blue paper top hats. They recited the Pledge of Allegiance, sang the National Anthem, read poems about the flag and sang “Proud to be an American.”
Principal Cathleen Quinn described their Flag Day ceremonies as one of the very special days of the year because it begins the development of patriotism in their youngest students and continues through the time when they finish 8th grade.
In fact, many of the students that participated as toddlers in St. Thomas’ first Flag Day celebration were set to graduate as part of the Class of 2013 that very night.
Quinn highlighted the diversity of the students and paid tribute to how the flag unites us all.
“Look at all the countries that we represent,” she told the students. “Think of the places that your parents came from, or your grandparents. And look at everybody here today. We all look like Americans.”
The flags that the students were waving were provided by American Legion Post 118, represented by Dennis and Mary Farley and Sgt. Major David Valentin. The Farleys do a great job working with the students every year, rehearsing with them and teaching them the proper etiquette in handling a flag.
Valentin noted that June 14 is also the date that the United States Army was formed in 1775. He taught the children that the flag has two other names. Those in the Army call it “The Colors” because the bright red, white and blue contrasts with the darker colors typically worn by soldiers.
And he explained to the students that the name “Stars and Stripes” refers to the 50 stars representing all of the states and the stripes representing the thirteen original colonies that declared independence from England.
Thanks to the teachers of St. Thomas and American Legion Post 118 for keeping this wonderful tradition alive among the students. It is becoming increasingly important to focus on what unites them, particularly nowadays when all of the kids in our schools have different cultures, backgrounds and religions.
Quinn put it simply to the students: “Look around you. This is what America looks like.”
On a side note, the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association will be hosting a receptacle where you can discard your old flags. Flags should never be thrown out and there is a proper protocol to disposing of them. The receptacle, a retired mailbox, will be placed in front of the WRBA office at 84-20 Jamaica Avenue and will be painted with bright red, white and blue paint.
All discarded flags will be brought to American Legion Post 118 for proper disposal. We are very grateful to State Senator Joe Addabbo for bringing this to Woodhaven and we are deeply honored to host it. We will have a small ceremony when it is ready, watch this space for details. And, as always, if you need to reach the WRBA, you can leave a message at (718) 296-3735 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.