Thursday, June 14, 2001

Donna Montero-Freitas surrounds herself with Old Glory
yesterday at Flags Flying in Ward Warehouse.

Flag Day’s patriotism
waves proud

Today's little-known holiday
sparks love for Old Glory's fame

By Treena Shapiro

To Orland Taylor, Flag Day is a time to honor the symbol of those who gave their lives for America' freedom.

Taylor, past national vice commander of the American Legion, said his organization generally commemorates Flag Day by disposing of and burning flags no longer fit to be flown.

This year, however, even though the American Legion Department of Hawaii has collected some 200 frayed and faded flags for a somber flag retirement ceremony today, it may be postponed to Aug. 2. As of yesterday Taylor said the event organizers had not yet contacted him to make Flag Day arrangements.

Taylor speaks of the flag with emotion: "I was in Korea and Vietnam, and there was nothing more beautiful to see as you come back to your base as to see the American flag flying."

Not everyone treats the flag with the same reverence. Many do not know that Flag Day is a birthday celebration, established in 1877 for the American flag's centennial.

No state or city Flag Day ceremonies were planned for today, and even some who raise the flag daily did not realize that today was different from any other day. At one Oahu elementary school, the flagpole will remain barren because junior police officers charged with responsibility for the flag are out of school for the summer.

The Elks Club and the Boy Scouts held a Flag Day ceremony aboard the USS Missouri on Sunday.

Flag stores have seen a surge of business, but owners say that can be attributed to other flag holidays as well, such as Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Veterans Day.

"I would venture to say that the only people who really know and would celebrate (Flag Day) are ... all military-related because this is something that is part of their training, to observe all flag holidays," said Lorraine Archibald, owner of Flags n' Things in Aiea.

Mary Phillips, who owns Flags Flying at Ward Warehouse, said she has served at least 25 people looking for Flag Day supplies since the beginning of June. "I think there is a definite movement because of Flag Day, and it builds up to the Fourth of July."

Most people who purchase American flags are middle-aged, Phillips has observed.

"I think that at one time it was very popular to be patriotic and American," she said.

But more recently, she added, people have become aware of diversity and are more likely to buy flags representing their cultural backgrounds. Hawaiian flags, for instance, sell better than American flags at Flags Flying.

Vietnam veteran John Rogers, otherwise known as the "The General," hopes to reawaken pride in the American flag today.

"They don't know what Flag Day is, so I mean to wake them up," he said.

Rogers, a familiar figure who waves a flag at the corner of Kapiolani Boulevard and Kalakaua Avenue every morning, has invited others to join him tomorrow as he waves a flag from 5 to 9 a.m. at his traditional spot across the street from the Hawaii Convention Center, from 11 a.m. to noon in front of the state Capitol, and from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center. Rogers will supply flags to anyone who does not bring one.

Rogers began his street corner campaign on Jan. 7, 1998, to raise awareness about benefits for Hawaii war veterans.

The American flag is a priceless symbol of a great nation, Rogers said.

"I feel that this flag, a piece of cloth that is red, white and blue, (represents) what our forefathers fought for with blood, sweat and tears for the freedom that we all enjoy today."

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