By Ray Knapp

Some players in the National Football League recently protesting the National Anthem by kneeling while it was sung, has caused a lot of controversy – negative for the most part. To quell the national condemnation, the National Football League revised the Game Operations manual to ensure all players, on the field, to stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.

With Flag Day just past (June 14) and Independence Day arriving a week from today, I thought it would be appropriate to give a little history on its origin; what it stands for, and observance. Of course, we learned in the first grade that Betsy Ross made the first flag and was also credited with giving the United States its name. History researchers dispute both those things. The only thing on written record was given to the Pennsylvania Historical Society in 1870 by Betsy’s grandson. Some of his papers described the first flag the way it is usually depicted with 13 alternating red and white stripes and 13 white, five-pointed stars, arranged in a circle in the upper right corner of the flag on a blue canton.

I’ve heard some people say: I bet that school kids today don’t know the first thing about the Flag, National Anthem, or Pledge of Allegiance. These 3 things are our national symbols – the symbols which keep us together as the United States and as one nation. I had to see what Tennessee’s School Code said.

It read (in part): “49-6-1001. Flag Recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. (a.) All boards of education shall direct and all teachers employed by the public schools shall give instructions to the pupils of the schools, and shall have the pupils study as a part of the curriculum, the uses, purposes and methods of displaying the American flag and other patriotic emblems, and the history and usage of the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. (b.) In recognition of the civic heritage of the United States of America, all students shall be required to learn the Pledge of Allegiance and to demonstrate such knowledge.

(c.) Each board of education shall require the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in each classroom in the school system in which a flag is displayed.”

That came as a surprise, as I noted at public events, many people were unsure of what to do, nor knew the words to the Pledge of Allegiance. Of course, there always seems to be those few that appear oblivious to what’s going on; talking, laughing, or walking about as the National Anthem is sung and the Pledge of Allegiance is being recited. In opposition to this, Tennessee’s stand on reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is: “if for religious or other beliefs, no person will be forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance; however, they shall set or stand quietly and not disrupt the proceedings.”

Procedures when observing the National Anthem, or during the raising, lowering or passing of the flag, or reciting the Pledge of Allegiance are not complicated. Civilians are to stand (if able); remove their hat; place the hat or right hand over their heart during these proceedings. In recent years there have been some changes in paying respect to the flag by veterans. (Veterans and Saluting Out of Uniform) A provision of the 2009 Defense Authorization Act changed federal law to allow U.S. veterans and military personnel not in uniform to render the military hand-salute when the national anthem is played. This change adds to a provision which was passed in the 2008 Defense Bill, which authorized veterans and military personnel in civilian clothes to render the military salute during the raising, lowering or passing of the flag. Most veterans are aware of this, but many who have not been in the military are not.

The flag does not belong to any one American, but to all Americans. To most, a feeling of national pride is felt when we hear the National Anthem and its closing words about Old Glory: “Oh long may it wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”