In the year of its 100th birthday, the American Legion will host its 99th Flag Day Ceremony at 6 p.m. Friday at 417 Ivinson Ave.
Flag Day officially began in 1949 when President Harry Truman signed legislation to proclaim June 14 as Flag Day. However, the American Legion was promoting flag code and an official flag day long before.
The National American Legion began in March 1919, and seven months later, the Laramie post opened. The first post to open in Wyoming was in Van Tassell in June 1919. The Laramie post was the 14th in Wyoming.
The American Legion has four pillars: Americanism, Veterans, Defense and Youth.
“Our purpose is to help veterans and to be a voice for those who wouldn’t normally have a voice,” Laramie Legion Commander Vanessa Stuart said. “We make sure they [veterans] get access to the benefits they are entitled to.”
Boys and Girls State is a Legion-led event for youth in Wyoming. The Laramie Legion also sponsors youth programs in Laramie including the Boy Scouts, baseball and high school rodeo.
The flag ceremony will include speeches and a ceremonial flag burning, followed by a $6 sloppy Joe feed. Stuart explained the purpose of the ceremony is to “honor the flag.”
One of the speeches will be done by President of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Barry Gasdek. The other speech will be from the National Legion, read by one of the local officers.
Stuart explained that before flag burning, the Legion officers will inspect the flag to ensure it is “unserviceable.” The flag is then put on a stick above a barrel and lit on fire. During burning, there is silence. “It’s just showing respect for the flag,” Stuart said.
“It’s really moving, and it’s very moving for some of the veterans that have actually been deployed.”
Stuart emphasized one of the Legion’s jobs is educating the community on flag code, such as illuminating it or taking it down when the sun sets.
“We do encourage people to pay attention to the condition of their flag, and if they need a new one, we actually do sell them,” Stuart said.
There is an old mailbox in front of the Legion where people can drop off their old flags and the Legion will dispose of them properly.
As commander, Stuart wants to do more with the schools to teach young people about the flag. In addition, she said, “I’d really like to see as many youth come as (they) can.” She added students do not have the opportunity to see flag burnings at school.
“We would love to see everybody who wants to come,” Stuart said.