Alex Abercrombie, a 17-year-old Sea Cadet, shared his passion for making sure the American flag is treated with respect at a recent meeting of the Bradley Sunrise Rotary Club.
The Naval Sea Cadet Corps, which he has been a part since he was 13, is a program that teaches teens ages 13 to 17 a variety of skills, including some of the same ones those serving in the military do.
One thing Abercrombie said he had really gained while being in the Corps was a great appreciation for the flag of his country. Cadets are able to attend a variety of optional military-style trainings, and Abercrombie said it was during a two-week honor guard training that he learned how to treat the flag in every occasion from celebrations to military funerals.
“Those two weeks showed me there’s a lot more that needs to happen with the flag that doesn’t happen,” Abercrombie said.
After that, he and a couple other cadets approached Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland with the idea of a way to make sure all the flags outside city government buildings are taken care of even on weekends and holidays. The mayor agreed to a Flag Sentry program that would give a student from the Sea Cadets, Bradley ROTC or Civil Air Patrol the responsibility of taking care of the flags for the year
Abercrombie was named Cleveland’s first flag sentry. Since then, he has kept careful track of when flags need to be lowered to half-staff or taken down and replaced because of wear or bad weather.
He explained that a variety of holidays, like Memorial Day and Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, dictate American flags need to be lowered out of respect for those who have died serving the country.
The President of the United States can also issue proclamations dictating when a flag should be lowered to recognize, say, the loss of a public official.
He said he had used a website called AFlag.com to keep track of all the days the flag has needed to be lowered. The site allows anyone to sign up for a free email newsletter that lists all the half-staff days.
As he spoke to the club, Abercrombie also tried to debunk any myths his audience might have had about taking care of flags. For example, a flag that touches a ground does not actually have to be burned.
American flags that have become dirty from being on the ground can be taken to dry cleaners and flown again if they are still in good shape. Of course, he said, it’s best to avoid letting them fall in the first place.
“You should not treat a flag in such a way that you let it touch the ground,” he said.
He also shared a variety of other rules about displaying the flag:
- Only “all weather” flags can be allowed to be left outside to fly overnight. Flags flown at night must also have a light shining on them so they can still be seen.
- Small flags that cannot be raised or lowered can still be used to show support on occasions when it is necessary to display the flag at half-staff. A black ribbon can be tied in a bow at the top of the flag’s staff.
- Flags should never be cut up or used as apparel. However, wearing clothing that has an image of the entire flag printed on it is OK.
- When displaying a flag at an event where someone is speaking, the flag should be to the speaker’s right.
- State and other official government flags are the only ones allowed to flown on the same pole as the American flag, and they must be underneath it.
- The American flag should never be flown on the same pole as the flag of another country. Whenever flags of multiple countries are flown together, they should all be on separate poles of the same height.
Now a high school senior at Cleveland Christian School, Abercrombie said he hopes to continue his education by attending a military-related college or one that has a good ROTC program after he graduates.
Until then, he said he plans to keep sharing the importance of respecting the flag with people in his hometown.
Also at the Bradley Sunrise Rotary meeting, members discussed plans for the club’s upcoming fundraising gala on Aug. 24. The event takes place annually to raise money for the club’s initiative to support charitable organizations throughout the community.
“The most exciting part of the gala comes in October,” Rotarian Pat Fuller said. “That’s when we start handing out checks to organizations like Habitat [for Humanity].”
For more information about the club or the event, visit www.bradleysunriserotary.com.