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justine wettschreck/Daily Globe Today is Flag Day, which commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States. Here, the Minnesota flag, U.S. flag and POW/MIA flag fly above Freedom Shore Park.

Flag Day is today

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WORTHINGTON -- Take a moment today to consider the U.S. flag.

Thirteen stripes -- one for each of the original 13 colonies.

Fifty stars -- one for each state.

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Sewn by Betsy Ross? That piece of lore is up for debate.

According to usflag.org, a website dedicated to this symbol of our nation, historians have never been able to prove that Ross, a Philadelphia seamstress, stitched together the first flag. When he was general of the Continental Army, George Washington relied on Ross to embroider his shirt ruffles. Her grandson, William Canby, later (in 1870, 94 years after the incident was supposed to take place) gave his account of how Washington and two representatives of Congress showed up on her doorstep with a rough drawing of the flag, and Ross suggested they use five-pointed stars instead of six-pointed ones.

Numerous historians have tried to substantiate Canby's story utilizing government records, Washington's diaries and other sources, but have found no data to prove the claim.

Today is Flag Day, a U.S. observance officially added to the calendar by President Harry Truman in 1949. But the origins of Flag Day are traced to 1885, when Bernard J. Cigrand, a 19-year-old teacher in Waubeka, Wis., placed a 10-inch, 38-star flag in a bottle on his desk and then assigned his students to write essays on the flag and its significance.

Cigrand's assignment commemorated Congress' adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777. It was also the start of Cigrand's long and fervent campaign to bring about a national recognition and observance of Flag Day.

According to the National Flag Day Foundation: "The crowning achievement of his life came at age 50 when President Wilson, on May 30, 1916, issued a proclamation calling for a nation wide observance of Flag Day. Then in 1949, President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating the 14th day of June every year as National Flag Day. On June 14th, 2004, the 108th U.S. Congress voted unanimously on H.R. 662 that Flag Day originated in Ozaukee County, Wis."

So what does one do on Flag Day?

In Waubeka, the birthplace of Flag Day, the community celebrates with a patriotic program and a parade.

The National Museum of American History in Washington will today host a special Flag Day naturalization ceremony for 20 candidates from around the world.

In Virginia, a skydiving company promotes a Flag Day tandem jump.

Locally, members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and Elks Lodge and local Boy Scouts will conduct a flag retirement ceremony at 9 p.m. today at Olson Park, near the walk bridge. Anyone with old flags is encouraged to drop them at the Elks Lodge or bring them to the ceremony, during which the old flags will be burned, per U.S. Code Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8, Paragraph K.

"The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning."

One last bit of flag trivia -- "Our Flag," a book published in 1977 by the House of Representatives, offers the following explanation of the symbolism of the stars and stripes.

"The star is a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun."

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Beth Rickers
Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at http://lagniappe.areavoices.com/.  
(507) 376-7327
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