In 2013 Colonial Flag Foundation’s Healing Field® and Field of Honor® flag display events spread across the United States from Cape Cod on the Atlantic to the Big Island of Hawaii in the Pacific and from Washington State in the North to Texas on the Gulf Coast. In all 38 communities in 21 states hosted Healing Field ® and Field of Honor® programs during the year.
Over the Veterans Day weekend alone nine communities hosted Healing Field® and Field of Honor® flag displays. We were unable to visit them all, but were able to visit almost half of them, and I was privileged to visit the Healing Field display in Aurora, Illinois.
While this was Aurora’s first official Healing Field® event, the local committee demonstrated exceptional ability to plan and execute an amazing event which combined a posting of 2013 flags with the concurrent display of the Moving Wall™ Vietnam Veteran Memorial. The West Aurora High School campus provided the beautiful setting and facilities which made success possible.
Arriving on the campus, I was greeted by U.S. flags lining every street and walkway around the school. A bonus, these flags where posted not as part of the Healing Field® display, but as flags from the collection of Larry “The Flagman” Eckhart who brought them a distance of 174 miles from Little York, Illinois. Larry is well known for volunteering his labor and flags to enhance events in the Midwest, and his efforts were not wasted in Aurora.
On the east outside wall of the school’s gymnasium, I found a thirty by sixty foot U.S. flag attached to the masonry. This gigantic flag made it clear that West Aurora High is serious about displaying the flag. I later discovered a companion flag measuring twenty by forty feet displayed as a backdrop on the auditorium stage where assemblies and programs added a new dimension to event activities.
Nicknamed the City of Lights, because it was one of the first cities to install electric streetlights, Aurora appeared to me to also be the City of Flags. Even before visiting the Healing Field® display, I had encountered an abundance of flags.
I found the Moving Wall™ situated on the soccer field with a temporary stage, a temporary veterans’ memorial and a large marquee tent which served as the headquarters for the moving wall and volunteers. Attention to detail showed everywhere with potted plants and shrubs dressing the set everywhere. Even portable toilets and hand washing facilities were enhanced with potted plants. Only the display of military vehicles seemed to escape the landscaping.
A long line of visitors moved along the Wall and many searched for names among the seemingly never ending lists of casualties. Flags, flowers, notes and pictures found place at the bottom of each plaque. These were not just names, but individuals whose sacrifice affected others not only when they were killed but still today. A special program to recognize Gold Star families made clear the cost of war. Freedom, as it has been observed, is anything but free.
Moving around the school’s football stadium, I arrived at the primary goal of my visit, the Aurora Healing Field flag display. Two thousand and thirteen flags filled the football practice field. A steady wind whipped the flags out straight from their staffs in an awe-inspiring panorama of red, white and blue. The top row of the adjacent football bleachers afforded an eagle eye view of the display. Visitors to the display climbed up steep stadium steps to a vantage point which offered the reward of an amazing view.
Area schools supplied a constant stream of visitors who had been prepared by their teachers for the experience. Adding to the continual line of school buses ferrying students to the Healing Field display and the Moving Wall, cars filled available parking with more visitors.
In addition to school children, many area residents visited the Aurora Healing Field® flags. The family of Albert W. DeSotell, a 97 year old veteran of World War II, brought him to see the flag they posted on the field in his honor. Despite having served in Scotland, England, France, Luxemburg and Germany —the most beautiful sight of all for him was the Statue of Liberty he saw on his return home. Albert’s children, grandchildren and great grandchildren all surrounded him for pictures at great grandpa’s flag. The flag honoring PFC Albert W. DeSotell, is but one flag of more than two thousand, and there is a story for each individual honored at Aurora’s Healing Field® display of flags.
Everything described would seem to tell the whole story of Aurora’s flags, but the list of presentations and ceremonies found in the printed program added yet another layer of excitement. Special guests, speakers, soloists, the Aurora West High A Cappella Choir and the West High Wind Symphony each contributed to activities spread over a week’s time. The one thing characteristic that defined and united them all was excellence.
A bugler sounded taps as the U.S. flag was lowered during the closing ceremony, and the flags that crowded the field have be removed, furled and presented to the sponsors. Only one question remains, when will Aurora gather again to post their next Healing Field® display of flags? They have certainly shown they know how to do it in spectacular style.
November 25, 2013 1 Comment
Vexillologists, scholars and enthusiasts who study flags, get very picky as they endeavor to be strictly accurate in describing flags. Sometimes they get too carried away and magnifying a small detail causes them to miss the larger picture. The name of Britain’s flag is one such issue.
The flag of the United Kingdom is a combination of three flag each bearing a cross symbolizing one of the three kingdoms which constitute the British nation. A white flag with a red cross, known as the Cross of Saint George, represents England; a blue flag with a white X-shaped cross, known as the Cross of Saint Andrew, stands for Scotland; and a white flag with a red X-shaped cross, called the Cross of Saint Patrick, has become recognized as the symbol of Ireland. Sandwich the three flags together and they form the Union flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Formally, the flag is known as the Union Flag, but for centuries it has been popularly known as the Union Jack.
If “Union Jack” were merely a nickname, like Old Glory, the Star-Spangled Banner, and the Stars and Stripes are nicknames for the United States flag, its popular use should be understandable and acceptable. There is something familiar and charming about referring to this historic banner as the Union Jack. Certainly veterans who have defended the U.K. feel they have the right to address their flag in familiar terms. As in fact do many other subjects of the Queen.
Nevertheless, some have insisted that the term Union Jack refers only to a special nautical flag flown on the jack staff at the bow of ships. The term jack refers to these specific maritime flags not only in Britain, but in nations around the world. In the United States, for example, the jack is the union of stars displayed without the field of thirteen red and white stripes. So, in that sense the U.S. jack could also be called a “Union Jack,” but it is simply call the United State Jack. Jacks flown by other nations may not necessarily be a union device, but some other design adopted to be flown on the jack staff of their ships.
Still, call the U.K.’s flag the Union Jack, and a vexillologist could be quick to point out that on land the flag was to be called the Union Flag, and it could only be called the Union Jack when displayed on the jack staff of a vessel. I must admit that I have often avoided using the term “Union Jack” just to avoid the debate.
Now, however, Graham Bartram has come to the rescue. Bartram is the Chief Vexillologist of Britain’s Flag Institute. Having made a careful and exhaustive study of the question, Bartram has determined that the term Union Jack has been used historically to describe the Union Flag whether flown on land or as a jack aboard a ship. So, vexillologists and other flag enthusiasts can relax as either name is perfectly correct. O.K., so if it is flown on a jack staff it is correctly termed a jack, but the design of the jack is, yes indeed, the Union Flag.
So, three cheers for the Union Jack. It is after all an ancestor of our own Stars and Stripes. We inherited our national colors of red white and blue and the concept of a union flag from the Union Jack, and that should give Americans the right to call the flag by its familiar name. Three cheers for the Union Flag sounds too formal and stuffy anyway.
October 30, 2013 No Comments
NAVA 47, the recently completed 47th Annual Meeting of the North American Vexillological Association, NAVA, took place in Salt Lake City. NAVA, the premier organization of flag scholars and flag enthusiasts in the U.S. and Canada, which has met in cities ranging from Boston to Los Angeles and from Vancouver to San Antonio, was welcomed for the first time to the Beehive State from October 11th through the 13th of 2013.
In honor of NAVA 47 coming to Utah, Governor Gary Herbert declared the week of October 7-13, 2013 as Vexillological Week in Utah encouraging Utahns to “respect and share an affinity for the heritage and tradition of flags.”
Colonial Flag Company, a major sponsor of the NAVA 47, provided the specially designed NAVA 47 flag for displays at the meetings, and to make sure the meeting’s attendees were certain of their welcome Colonial displayed a gigantic 30 by 60 foot U.S. flag on the west side of the Salt Lakes Plaza Hotel where the meetings took place. In addition to welcoming NAVA 47 participants, the huge flag announced to the City that NAVA had come to town.
To make sure local residents could recognize that the Association was meeting at the hotel, Colonial also temporarily erected a 20 foot flag pole in front of the Plaza where the NAVA 47 flag flew over the hotel’s entrance during the weekend.
In addition to regular meetings in the Plaza Hotel’s Salt Lake City Room where a dozen presentations were given, attendees took part in other activities to enrich their NAVA 47 experiences.
- On Thursday evening early arrivers attended the weekly rehearsal of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
- On Friday attendees toured the State Capitol, the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum, the Fort Douglas Military Museum, and Ensign Peak.
- Invited NAVA flag conservation experts and specialists took part Friday morning in the examination of a historic flag purported to have been carried by the Mormon Battalion during the Mexican American War to California.
- On Friday afternoon NAVA members and local residents attended the George Henry Preble Lecture where Dr. Richard E. Bennett, President of the Mormon History Association, addressed them in an outreach event bringing vexillologists and local historians together. The LDS Church History Museum displayed four historic flags from their collection to illustrate Dr. Bennett’s lecture on flags used by the Mormon Pioneers.
- On Friday evening attendees gathered in a 13th floor condominium apartment overlooking downtown Salt Lake and Temple Square. Enjoying a Lion House Bakery cake Buffet, members renewed friendships and met first time attendees.
- On Saturday two flags from Eisenhower’s Oval Office, including a rare hand-embroidered 49 star Presidential Flag, were displayed for NAVA 47 attendees and Utahns by Chuck & Donna Douglas in the Plaza Hotel’s Guest Library.
- On Saturday afternoon, NAVA sponsored a Flag Exhibit in the Commons rooms of the City Creek Center where flags from four collections were on display, including the historic Life Guard Bear Flag which had been examined the day before.
- On Saturday evening the group dined in the Banquet Room of the Lion House on a menu of Chicken Alabam, Sting of the Bee Cake and plenty of renowned Lion House Rolls. The banquet, named the Whitney Smith Dinner in honor of the founder of NAVA and vexillology provided the setting for a report on the move of Whitney Smith’s vast collection of vexillological resources to the Dolf Brisco Center at the University of Texas in Austin. This move insures that the books, articles and files collected by Dr. Smith over a lifetime will remain intact and available to future vexillological research.
After the Association’s annual Business Meeting on Sunday morning, attendees enjoyed the remaining papers and presentations and the meetings closed with an auction of flags to raise funds for NAVA’s activities.
NAVA 47 attracted more attendees than any recent regular NAVA Annual Meeting including fifteen first time attendees, also a record. Many attendees arrived early or departed a day or two after the meeting’s close to enjoy Salt Lake City’s hospitality. In short, Salt Lake welcomed NAVA 47 and attendees were excited to visit Utah’s capital city. When NAVA meets for its 48th Annual Meeting next year, the bar is set higher thanks to NAVA 47’s success.
October 21, 2013 No Comments