Ceremonies are held across the country and our local Elks Lodge, as mandated, each year sets aside the day to commemorate and pay honor to the flag. A flagpole outside the Lodge was dedicated in April 2009, in memory of Morris W. Greene, an active Lodge member for more than 45 years.
The decision to honor his memory was a “natural” for his Brother Elks. For four-plus decades, it was Morris Greene who constantly reminded them of their obligation to display the flag.
After all, “... the flag is how America signs her name,” he would often tell us. He was the official “flag authority” or “flag police” for our community, and for all of us who called him friend.
Morris was a true patriot. He served his country in the Navy in World War II, later joining the U.S. Army National Guard, activated during the Korean conflict. He served with the Tennessee National Guard for 28 years and also served with the Army Reserve, retiring after 39 years in military service. He helped organize the 402nd Military Police Battalion of the Tennessee Defense Force and was my commanding officer. He reached the rank of brigadier general in the TDF, now known as Tennessee State Guard. In 1998, he earned this community’s prestigious Patriotism Award, given by all area veterans’ organizations of which he held life memberships.
Morris was often the person who planned the Flag Day services for the Elks Lodge and he was the Patriotism chairman who made certain the community’s veterans were remembered throughout the year. It was not unusual for any local business to get a call from Morris reminding them their flag needed to be replaced or displayed differently. And he did it out of a genuine love for the flag, which he felt was a reminder to all of our liberty, freedom and pride.
Needless to say, as a longtime friend of Morris Greene, I miss him, his wit and his wisdom.
As we approach this 2013 Flag Day, it is only fitting I take this opportunity to give some brief reminders of some Morris Greene “flag” tips that he so often shared with me.
Here are a few things I learned firsthand from Morris about displaying the flag:
n The U.S. flag, when carried in procession with another flag, should be on the marching right.
n The U.S. flag should be centered and at the highest point when displayed on its staff with other flags. If other flags are flown on the same staff, the U.S. flag should be placed at the highest peak on the staff. When suspended from a staff horizontally from a building, the union should be at the peak of the staff. When displayed over a street, the flag should be suspended vertically. The union will be to the north in an east-west street and to the east in a north-south street.
n During the raising or lowering of the flag, or during its passage in a parade, all present should face the flag and stand at attention with hand over heart. Men should remove their caps.
n The flag should always have the position of honor on the speaker’s platform, standing to the right of the speaker. All other flags should be to the left of the speaker.
n It is custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset outside. However, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness. 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.
n The flag should be displayed on all holidays and especially on New Year’s Day, Inauguration Day, birthdays celebrated as national holidays such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and such other days as may be proclaimed by the president of the United States.
Gen. Greene was also passionate about proper salutes for the flag. In February 2008, Congress approved the 2008 Defense Authorization Bill which allows veterans, when not in uniform, to salute the flag during its raising and lowering, and during the passing of colors. Previously veterans, when not in uniform, would hold a hand over their heart as the flag was being raised or lowered, or as colors were passing by.
Traditionally, individuals in uniform would give the military salute at the first note of the National Anthem or for passing of colors and/or raising and lowering of flags.
The new legislation allows them to render a military salute, regardless of whether or not they are in uniform. This is something new for veterans and military personnel.
In February 2009, an amendment to the bill allowed veterans to salute during the National Anthem, regardless of whether they are in uniform. Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present, but not in uniform, may then render the military salute in the manner provided for individuals in uniform. All other persons should face the flag and stand at attention with right hand over the heart.
In the words of the late retired Gen. Morris W. Greene, “Our United States flag has accompanied mankind on our greatest achievements, through wars and victories. It flies on the moon and atop Mount Everest. It is how America signs her name. We should respect her at all cost.”
This Flag Day, and on all holidays, fly your United States flag and “sign your name” as a proud American.