For decades, Wanda and Ned Veater flew the flag from the porch of their home in American Fork. A few years ago, Ned decided he wanted something more.
So, he had a flagpole installed in the front yard, just inside their white picket fence. He put a spotlight on the corner of his home and directed the light at the flag. He is saved the necessity of having to retire the flag each evening and raise it again in the morning. He loves flying the flag 24 hours a day, Veater says.
He talks about how beautiful the flag is on a winter night, with snow swirling softly around it.
Sometimes when he looks at the flag, he remembers being a young sailor on a Naval Air Transport ship, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, during World War II.
Bob Gray, sales manager of the flag department at Modern Display in Salt Lake City, says veterans such as Veater are typical flag buyers. He says World War II veterans, especially, want to look out through their screen door and see the flag for which they fought.
But for that matter, Gray adds, other veterans like to fly the flag, too. Also, parents of soldiers on active duty are buying flags these days. And, increasingly, he says, he is selling flags to parents of LDS missionaries who want to fly the flag of the country where their child is serving, which makes them want to fly the U.S. flag as well.
At Modern Display you can find a nylon U.S. flag, 3 feet by 5 feet, selling for $25. (A silk screened Betsy Ross is $10 for the same size.) Outdoor flag poles begin at $99 for a 15-foot pole.
But the salespeople will tell you that if you want a flagpole, you don't want to have to take your flag down every time a big wind comes up. So, they will recommend a sturdy, one-piece, 20-foot pole, which cost about $275.
If you count the small hand-held flags, 62 percent of American households own a flag, according to the Flag Manufacturers Association of America.
According to Chris Binner of Valley Forge Flag, a large Pennsylvania manufacturing company, that is twice as many flags per households than before 9/11. About half of those households fly the flag year round, he says.
Gray says he is sure Utah flag ownership went up 110 percent after the terrorist attacks. "Our phone lines rang nonstop for three months."
Paul Swenson, president of Colonial Flag, has no statistics to back up his estimate that Utah is in the top 10 states for flag ownership per capita. Perhaps Utah is not at the very top, he says.
Swenson has seen with his own eyes the number of flags flown in Texas and also in Florida. Florida doesn't surprise him, he says, because there are a lot of retirees in Florida and older Americans are more likely than young ones to own a flag.
Still, he says his sales statistics cause him to conclude, "We have a very very patriotic state. We have a lot of flag wavers here."
This is the high season for flag buying in Utah, from Memorial Day to July 24. Swenson sees average sales in 2008, nothing significantly higher than last year, at this time. The local home flag market hasn't seen any big surges since September 2001, Swenson says.
His company was gearing up before Sept. 11, Swenson recalls. The Winter Olympics were coming and Colonial Flag had some big contracts. But Swenson can remember waking up at 4 a.m. on Sept. 12 knowing he needed to buy even more flags.
Before Sept. 11, a busy day in Colonial's showroom would have been one when 20 customers milled about. By mid-September 2001, every day saw 150 people lined up, waiting to buy.
If there is anything new on the local flag front this year, Swenson says it has to be the expanded celebration of Flag Day on June 14. He can't remember a bigger celebration than the one planned for Saturday at Fort Douglas and This Is The Place Heritage Park. (See box.)
But as Flag Day approaches, Veater finds himself wondering how much Utahns know about the holiday or about the flag in general.
Veater is a member of the honor guard of District 4 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Veater helps regularly with the flag ceremonies at the funerals of veterans. His group has served at 3,700 burials over the past 28 years, he says.
Veater and his fellow veterans also pass out pamphlets about how to honor the flag. Even the Boy Scouts don't always treat the flag the way they should, Veater says. When they go around the neighborhood with their flag fundraisers, the Scouts might stick the flags in the ground with the poles at an angle, for example. They might not know that the only time a pole may be at an angle is if it is affixed to a building. Veater explains that poles in the ground, no matter how small, should stand straight up.
Then too, he's seen Scouts forget to wind the flags when they pick them up, tossing them unfurled into the back of a pickup. We have to educate the next generation, Veater says. Flags are not a piece of fabric. They are the sacred symbol of our country.
Swenson agrees. But he also believes there are different philosophies about the flag. If he sees it hanging on a porch with the stars on the right instead of the left, it doesn't bother him. He's just happy that the folks who live there are flying a flag.
Swenson admires Whitney Smith, America's most well-known vexillogist, or flag expert. Smith does not like huge flags flying in front of businesses, but Swenson respectfully disagrees with Smith on this one point. Swenson says the flag can also symbolize free enterprise. He likes driving down State Street, seeing all the flags in front of the car dealerships.
If flags mean "free enterprise" to some, to others they might mean, "I'm proud to be a Republican." But if you are thinking about selling your house, a flag pole will not turn buyers away, reports Catherine Bullock, a Realtor with Summit Sothebys.
"We are a red state," she says. "Well, probably not in Salt Lake City proper ... but anyway, I'm not finding any buyers who have a problem with a flag pole, unless the flag that is flying is worn and dirty. Buyers do have a problem with that. People say, 'If they are going to have a flag, why don't they do it right?'"
At the Veaters' home, the base of the flagpole is surrounded with flowers. The flagpole looks as much a part of the yard as the wishing well or the bird houses, which are also surrounded by flowers.
The U.S. Flag Code, adopted in 1923, gives etiquette suggestions. It is not a law. Still, if you would like to treat the flag respectfully, here's how:
• A flag flying upside down is a signal of distress.
• Hold the flag carefully, never letting it touch the ground or the floor. You may drape it over a casket but not over merchandise.
• When you carry it, let it fly free. Don't hold it flat or horizontally, except when you are folding it.
• Keep it clean. You may have a torn flag repaired, but when it becomes soiled or worn, dispose of it properly. Your neighborhood Boy Scout troop can retire it for you with honors.
• Don't use the flag for advertising purposes. Don't use it as a costume or as part of an athletic outfit. Militia, police officers and firefighters may attach a patch of the
flag as part of their uniforms. If you wear a flag lapel pin, wear it on the left side, nearest your heart.
• During the national anthem, everyone stands and faces the flag. If you are wearing a hat and are not in any kind of uniform, remove your hat and hold it in your right hand so it is at your left shoulder when you put your hand over your heart. Those in uniform will salute. If you are watching a parade and the flag passes by, you should also stand and put your hand over your heart.
If you go ...
What: A celebration of Flag Day and the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Army Reserves
Where: Beginning at This is the Place Heritage Park, 2601 E. Sunnyside Ave. and then parading to Fort Douglas. Activities continue at both sites throughout the day.
When: Saturday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
How much: Free at Fort Douglas. At This is the Place Heritage Park, free to active military and veterans with ID, and half price for their families. Regular admission to all others.
Phone: 582-1847 or 581-1251
Also: There is shuttle service between the two locations, as well as special exhibits and encampments, lectures and, at Fort Douglas, calvary drill re-enactments, cannon firing demonstrations, band concerts and an anniversary cake. Also, hundreds of bikers will gather for the "Utah Freedom Memorial's Motorcycle Rally," beginning at 10 a.m. Register for the ride at www.UtahFreedommemorial.org.
E-mail: [email protected]