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"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America." Teens and every American should know the proper caring for and facts about the flag and what it stands for. The Fourth of July is celebrated different ways by different Americans. For some people it's about patriotism and ceremonies and for others, it's about family and a holiday to set off fireworks.

Mary Krenik, a Troop 7 parent, said, "The Fourth of July is about a celebration and being patriotic with family."

She thinks of picnics and fireworks.

The Fourth of July represents the freedom and independence of the United States from the British. This happened because, in 1776, representatives from each colony met in Philadelphia to write and ratify a document declaring co-independence from British rule. This document was signed and adopted on July 4, 1776, our day of independence, marking the beginning of the united nation.

America's first design of the national flag was approved by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. On Aug. 3, 1949, President Truman declared June 14 to be Flag Day. On July 4, 1960, Hawaii became the 50th state. This is the reason our flag today has 50 stars.

Here are some facts about our flag that many people may not know.

If you wonder why the flag has 13 stripes, these stripes symbolize the original 13 colonies of the United States. The colors of the flag have their own special meaning as well:

  • Red: symbolizes hardiness and valor.
  • White: symbolizes purity and innocence.
  • Blue: represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.

In Boy Scouts, they teach proper care of the flag and the importance of flag etiquette during ceremonies. The proper storage and folding is just as important as the way the flag is displayed. In Troop 7's last meeting, members practiced the proper way to fold and display a flag.

I was also able to ask troop member Turner Daines, 16, a question: Do you think it is important for kids to learn about and how to care for the flag?

"Yes," he replied. "Very important because it represents our country and it's part of being an American and living in America."

Today, many uniforms have a flag sewn on the left shoulder of the shirts. The military wears the flag backward so that, when an observer is looking to the wearer's right shoulder, it creates the effect of a flying flag.

Flag etiquette is very important to many Americans. The reasons for flying the flag at half-staff is part of flag etiquette that many Americans don't understand. According to usflag.org, the pertinent section of the flag code says, "By order of the president, the flag shall be flown at half-staff upon the death of principle figures of the United States Government and the Governor of a state, territory or possession, as a mark of respect to their memory."

When showing a flag, you must follow these guidelines:

  • When displaying the flag at different heights, the U.S. flag flies the highest. The U.S. flag is also raised first and lowered last.
  • Flags can also be at equal heights. In this case, the U.S. flag has to be either in front of or farthest right of the other flags.
  • Often the flag is displayed flat against a wall. When the flag is in this display, the blue field should be at the top, at the flag's own right (to the left as you look at it).
  • The flag is never flown upside down, except as a distress signal to call for help.
  • The flag also must never touch the ground, the floor or water. Place nothing on it. Never use it for drapery or decoration.
  • Never display a soiled or ripped flag. If a flag is ever torn, you can get a hold of a Veterans of Foreign Wars or Boy Scout office for proper disposal of the flag.

Many Americans are discouraged and angry that people are allowed to burn our flag in protest. Many people are confused about why there are no laws in our country against flag burning when we take such pride in our flag.

When asked what the flag means to him, Miles Otstot, 11, a Boy Scout, said, "It's part of the country's freedom; therefore, it's a big part of my American heritage."

I feel that a flag-burning ceremony, basically a flag retirement, done by a organization like the VFW, should be the only way a flag should be lawfully burned. America's most prized symbol should be respected.

The writing of "I am the Flag," by Ruth Apperson Rous, created words for teens and adults alike to consider on the Fourth of July and throughout the year:

"As you see me silhouetted against the peaceful skies of my country, remind yourself that I am the flag of your country, that I stand for what you are — no more, no less.

"Guard me well, lest your freedom perish from the earth.

"Dedicate your lives to those principles for which I stand: 'One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.'

"I was created in freedom. I made my first appearance in battle for human liberty.

"God grant that I may spend eternity in my 'land of the free and the home of the brave' and I shall ever be known as 'Old Glory,' the flag of the United States of America."

Alex Walker will be an eighth-grader at Riverside Middle School. He is in Boy Scouts and enjoys skateboarding, football and other sports.

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