Here’s a simple way to begin: teach them about our flag. Teach them the history of the flag—how it began by an act of Congress on June 14, 1777, which we now call Flag Day. Teach them the meaning of the flag’s colors. Red stands for the courage, heroism and sacrifices of the 44,000,000 men and women who have served in the armed services of our country since the Revolutionary War, and for the blood shed to preserve our liberty, including 1.4 million who died in combat; white stands for peacefulness and the purity of our high ideals; and blue, the color of the heavens, stands for the justice, strength, loyalty and unity of all our states.
Teach them proper etiquette to show respect for the flag—that you stand up and salute when it passes by in a color guard, as it will do in the Memorial Day Parade next Sunday. Teach them to take off their hat and cross their heart as if they were saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Teach them to hold that position—that display of respect—from the time the flag is six paces away until it is six paces past you.
Teach them it is not improper to burn the flag when you are retiring it from service because it is faded, torn, soiled or otherwise unfit for display. Teach them that the Federal Flag Code calls for a flag to be retired by consigning it to the flames in a reverent ceremony, and explain to them that we veterans object to burning the flag only when it is done in a disrespectful manner of protest or insult to America. Otherwise, cremation is the proper way to end the life of a flag.
Teach your children well, ladies and gentlemen, because in a self-governing society such as ours, the family is the first level of government. Town, state and federal government comes into their lives later. The family is where children first learn the principles of self-government, such as self-reliance and personal responsibility, respect for duly constituted authority, the work ethic, courtesy and public decorum, the value of education and being well-informed, the need for morality and virtuous behavior, volunteerism to help the community, and other elements of healthy social and political living.
Do that and we veterans will say: Thank you. Thank you for doing your part as first-responder parents who are helping to meet a national crisis of people who know less and less about the meaning of America. Thank you for paying your share of the cost of preserving our freedom.