Flag Day deserves recognition

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 14, 2002

Features Editor

Flag Day was officially recognized in 1949 when the United States Congress passed the National Flag Day Bill during President Harry Truman’s administration.

However, Flag Day falls behind other patriotic holidays in recognition, but it shouldn’t, said Frank Wilkes, director of the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs.

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Wilkes said any time he sees the American flag being flown, he is deeply moved.

"More than a million men and women have lost their lives in the major American wars," he said. "Sacrifice is meaningless without remembrance. Every American flag should be a remembrance."

Wilkes said some years back, he was shocked, stunned and saddened to learn that the American history textbooks that had been adopted for the state’s public school system had only one page dedicated to the wars of the 20th century.

"I got on the phone and called the state superintendent of education, who, at that time, was Wayne Teague," Wilkes said. "I told him that it made my blood run cold that the state board of education deemed it inappropriate to devote more than one single page to wars of the 20th century. I told him that I was going to contact the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the POWs, the DAV, the Purple Hearts and that we might march on Montgomery."

Wilkes said he was sure that the people of Alabama wanted their children to be educated about the sacrifices of their forefathers – the sacrifices that preserved America’s freedoms and America’s values.

"The next school year, American history text books in the public schools devoted a whole chapter to the wars of the 20th century," he said.

The director of the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs

said it is equally important that the children of Alabama be taught about America’s flag.

"Our children need to be taught what our flag stands for," he said. "They need to be taught to revere it and how to properly display it and how to honorably destroy it."

Through the encouragement of the department of veterans affairs a statewide program has been initiated to do just that.

"The state board of education has approved and adopted a program, ‘Old Glory, America’s Flag,’ that will be taught to 63,000 fifth graders next year," Wilkes said. "The program then will be taught year after year."

Wilkes challenged adults to make patriots of their children.

"When I was growing up, every Sunday afternoon, if we weren’t in church or in the emergency room, my father made sure we were at my grandfather and grandmother’s house," he said. "My aunts and uncles and cousins would all be there and we would pile on the living room floor and listen to my grandfather tell stories. He was a World War I veteran and his stories made a strong impression on me.

As Southerners, we believe in God, family and church. In every major war, Alabamians volunteered to serve. Alabama is, in fact, in the top five states to do that. Alabamians have always stepped forward. We are proud Americans with strong convictions. We are proud of Old Glory and of all the things it represents. On Flay Day, we should all salute Old Glory and remember the sacrifices that keep it flying."