WILKES-BARRE — There were a lot of flags waving at Wednesday night’s city council meeting, thanks to World War II veteran Jim Walsh.
Walsh, 93, distributed 36 American flags to those attending the meeting and he asked council, residents and businesses to proudly display the flag today — Flag Day — to show their patriotism.
In preparation for the holiday that Wilkes-Barre observes with a paid day off for its employees, Walsh asked the people who accepted the flags from him to stand and wave them back and forth.
“You know what you are? You’re a flag waver. You’re a flag waver and be proud you’re a flag waver so long as it’s the American flag you’re flying. You’ll wave ‘em better,” Walsh said. “Be proud of it. I am, deeply.”
Walsh never misses an opportunity to tell anybody who will listen why the United States is the greatest nation in the world and that they should show their patriotism by displaying the flag.
During World War II, Walsh fought in the European Theater and the Battle of the Bulge. Walsh was 18 in May 1943, when he enlisted with two of his high school classmates. They left school early, receiving their diplomas when they returned from war.
“We were anxious to serve our country,” Walsh said. “In our minds, it was patriotic. We never realized what we were getting into — nobody did.”
Walsh said the flag is the symbol of America and it should be displayed not just on holidays, but every day.
He often speaks at council meetings and expresses his disappointment that the city does not display more flags. When it does, the flags are often improperly displayed, he said.
Some flags attached to utility poles face inward overhanging the sidewalk when they should be directed outward over the street, Walsh said.
“Don’t do it if you don’t know what you’re doing,” Walsh chastised city council members. He urged them to contact the local units of the armed services on proper flag display.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Flag Day was introduced by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. In 1937, Pennsylvania was the first state to celebrate Flag Day as a state holiday.
The U.S. Flag Code, which was written on Flag Day in 1923, features rules related to usage of the flag.
The flag should not be displayed upside down, except as a signal of dire distress. It should never touch anything beneath it, such as the floor. The flag should always be carried aloft and free, not flat and horizontal. It also should never be used as a receptacle for carrying or delivering anything.
In terms of home decor, the flag should not be used as apparel, bedding or drapery. It should not be used as covering for a ceiling, and it should never be used for advertising purposes. Things like disposable napkins or paper plates are especially heinous; anything designed for temporary use should not be decorated with the flag.
Arguments have surrounded a rule about flags on attire. According to the code, the flag may be affixed to clothing for military personnel, firemen, policemen or other members of a patriotic organization. However, it should not be affixed to costumes or athletic uniforms. Multiple teams, particularly in baseball, have had the tradition of including the flag in uniforms, despite the guidelines.
Edits to the flag, such as an insignia, design, or word, are not allowed. Multiple national movements, such as Blue Lives Matter, feature edited designs of the flag, which has led to criticism.
The flag should not be in a position where it can be easily damaged. And when retired due to its condition no longer being fit for display, it should be destroyed in a dignified way such as burning.