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June 13, 2014

Nation pays tribute to Stars and Stripes

— Flag Day, in a sense, has multiple origins.

The stars-and-stripes design was officially adopted as the nation’s flag by the Second Continental Congress on this day in 1777.

On June 14, 1885, Bernard J. Cigrand, a schoolteacher from Wisconsin, started his decades-long promotion of what he called “Flag Birthday” by instructing his students to write essays about the flag’s significance.

Some other unofficial ceremonies were held throughout the 1800s, too. Then, in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring June 14 to be Flag Day.

However, it was not until 1949 that Congress officially established National Flag Day.

Even with all of those changes, the day’s message of patriotism has remained the same.

“The flag is what America’s all about,” said retired Lt. Col. Roy Jacobs from VFW Post 155 in Johnstown.

The day is celebrated all across the nation.

“Essentially, Flag Day is the birthday of the flag,” said Lisa Acker Moulder, director of the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia, which is believed to hold one of the nation’s longest continuously running Flag Day ceremonies, dating back to 1891.

Wilson urged recognition of the holiday on June 14, 1915, saying, “I, therefore, suggest and request that throughout the nation, and if possible in every community, the 14th day of June be observed as Flag Day with special patriotic exercises, at which means shall be taken to give significant expression to our thoughtful love of America, our comprehension of the great mission of liberty and justice to which we have devoted ourselves as a people, our pride in the history and our enthusiasm for the political program of the nation, our determination to make it greater and purer with each generation, and our resolution to demonstrate to all the world its vital union in sentiment and purpose, accepting only those as true compatriots who feel as we do the compulsion of this supreme allegiance.”

Flag Day will be observed by several organizations throughout the area today.

The East Hills Kiwanis Club of Johnstown will line stretches of Bedford Street and Scalp Avenue with approximately 300 flags, as it has done for two decades.

“This has been an ongoing project for us,” said the club’s president, Jack Turner.

Beginning at 6 p.m., the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge 175 will hold a service at Kiwanis Memorial Park to Veterans, located along Theatre Drive in Richland Township, to honor retired military personnel.

“We’ve pledged never to forget our veterans,” said Al Just, the lodge’s exalted ruler.

Boy Scouts of America Troop 2100 in Richland Township will collect retirement-ready flags in the parking lot of Mount Calvary Lutheran Church, 1000 Scalp Avenue.

Also, in downtown Johnstown, the Stone Bridge will be lit red, white and blue from 9 to 11:30 p.m., as it was Friday night.

“It’s going to be a nice addition to Flag Day,” said Shelley Johansson, director of marketing and communications for the Johnstown Area Heritage Association, which operates the bridge’s light displays.

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Dave_Sutor.

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