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Did you notice Old Glory on Flag Day?

Lakewood Ranch's JoAnne and John Lawler bring attention to Flag Day on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard.
Lakewood Ranch's JoAnne and John Lawler bring attention to Flag Day on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard.
Photo by Jay Heater
  • East County
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It was just a quick beep on June 14, but Lakewood Ranch's John and JoAnne Lawler knew it was at least some acknowledgement that Flag Day was upon us.

The Lawlers brought a big American flag with a sign that read "Happy Flag Day" and set up shop along Lakewood Ranch Boulevard just to the south of Lakewood Ranch Town Hall North. They have set up there on past Flag Days as well, because it is a stretch of road where the motorists can see them in a nice "safe" area.

They kept the American flag waving, too, and motorists let them know they appreciated the effort with a beep of the horn as they whizzed past.

Beep ... beep ... beep.

Besides the American flag, the Lawlers waved a Trump flag which also prompted responses, both positive and negative, the negative ones including the occasional rude gesture.

The Lawlers' main goal on Flag Day was to get people thinking about their country's flag and patriotism, and being an election year, there was other work on their agenda as well. But whatever your feelings might be about our political leaders, it shouldn't detract from the respect you show to the American flag.

John Lawler said he doubted 95% of those in the cars that drove past knew it was Flag Day, until they saw the flag and the sign. The Lawlers said that wasn't the case back when they were growing up, because parents taught "American values" as a higher priority. Both John and JoAnne said they grew up in homes where the flag was raised each day and taken down each night.

It made an impression on them, one they now like to share, even if it means wearing their arms out along the roadway.

Before COVID, I remember going out to local schools when members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars would go to the campus and teach the students how to fold an American flag. It's not that hard, and if you need help, it used to be that you always could find a veteran, or a Boy Scout to teach you. At least that was the case when they were called Boy Scouts. Whether it is the case today, I don't know. I sure hope it still is a requirement.

It wasn't a requirement to learn how to fold a flag at schools, although it should be. Flag Day falls at a time in June when schools mostly are out, so it would take a special effort to set aside a day and time for such a lesson.

A history class would be the perfect setting.

As an action, folding an American flag isn't much different than folding towels. That is why you need a scout leader, or a member of the military, or a history teacher to give meaning to something that should be important to us. A first fold could bring up a discussion of Betsy Ross, who was hired by George Washington to sew the first American Flag featuring stars and stripes. The next could bring up its nickname of Old Glory as given by sea Capt. William Driver in 1831. Another could spark a discussion of Col. Theodore Roosevelt's charge during the battle of San Juan Hill in 1898. Fold again and you could talk about the most famous photo of the American Flag, in 1945 as it was raised over Iwo-Jima by six U.S. Marines during World War II. The task would be almost complete, but shouldn't end without thinking of astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planting the American Flag into the moon's surface in 1969, or the American Flags draped over the caskets of soldiers who died for it.

Folding the flag was a task my father performed on a daily basis outside our home in rural New York. I remember going out to our front lawn one day with my dad, a former Marine, and digging a hole and mixing concrete to set a flagpole. Each morning afterward, the flag was run up that pole, and each evening, as the sun set, the flag came down and was folded.

It meant something then, and I hope it means as much to our youngsters of today.

Flag Day is not a national holiday and is only a legal state holiday in Pennsylvania. That's OK, because I don't think we need a day off to offer our respect.

We do have a Federal Flag Code, but while it covers rules for handling and displaying our American Flag, it offers no penalties for misuse. Florida's Department of State offers flag guidelines and protocols and you can find those at

My own biggest pet peeve about the display of the American Flag is when people or businesses leave it out in terrible weather and allow it to be ripped to shreds. That kind of disrespect is alarming.

The Federal Flag Code notes, "When a flag is so tattered that it no longer fits to serve as a symbol of the United States, it should be replaced in a dignified manner, preferably by burning."

Certainly, I have lived a little, and perhaps those of my era did put more weight into our national symbols. But I have faith that our future generations will continue to cherish our flag as much as I do.

Take for instance, Lakewood Ranch's Lorenzo Liberti, a 19-year-old who carves rustic American flags and sells them to raise money for his Give-A-Buck Foundation that gives its proceeds to help homeless veterans. Part of his effort goes toward carving an American flag for hospitals in all 50 states.

That's the type of salute to our flag we all can appreciate.



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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