June 14—Flag Day and the US Army Birthday

by Hank Schrader, USMA ’71

In June 14. 1777, the Second Continental Congress adopted the flag of the United States.  Earlier, in 1775, our Congress had established the “American Continental Army” on 14 June.  Our country sure has come a long way from those early days.  Here are some of my thoughts about these two celebrations and some facts about the flags of European Countries, inspired by thinking about our flag. .

US Army Birthday

First, the US Army Birthday deserves recognition.  My lifetime has been always associated with the Army in some form—it started as an Army Brat (my Dad was a career officer), I went to West Point, I served 20 years in the Army and once a soldier, always a soldier—I have tried to help in various military organizations and causes since my retirement.  It was an honor to serve.  So, how many serve today on the 242nd Birthday of the Army?  The active Army has about 480,000 in an all-volunteer force.  There are also around 340,000 in the Army National Guard and 200,000 in the Army Reserves.  To all of your who have donned the US Army Uniform, thank you for serving our country—there is no doubt in my mind you have made it possible for us to enjoy the freedoms that come from living in America!


4-20 Infantry Officers
4-20 Battalion Officers prior to a field training exercise in Panama 1978. I was the company commander of B Company.

Anne & Hank at Fort Ord
Anne & Hank at Fort Ord in 1986

Flags have been used throughout history as a way to identify military groups, ships and nations.  The most popular use of flags is to symbolize a country or nation.  These symbols represent the pride of a nation and are used in times of celebration, protest and tragedy to express the feelings of the nation.  Perhaps no one item can so eloquently capture the spirit of a country.

Our Flag and Flag Day

When our flag was adopted, it was created by a resolution of the Second Continental Congress.  The resolution stated that the flag “be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”  So, that is how the Stars and Strips was officially created and described by our forefathers.

There were several attempts to recognize our flag, especially after the Civil War, but it did not receive official recognition until 1916.  It is not a national holiday but a day of observance to recognize the creation and importance of our flag. 

We all seem to know a lot about our flag and its meaning, but it got me thinking about flags in Europe.  Here are some facts about European Flags, I hope you will find interesting.

American Cemetery 2
American Cemetery in Normandy with French and American flags
Some Interesting Europe Flags


According to Wikipedia, the Dannebrog, the national flag of Denmark, is the oldest national flag still in use.  This flag was adopted in 1478.  The cross design has been adopted by the Scandinavian flags of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland. Here is an example of the cross design with a whimsical picture from Norway:

Trolls with the Flag of Norway
The Union Jack

Probably the most recognized flag in the world, the Union Jack is a combination of three flags: England, Wales, and Scotland and their patron saints.  It was first flown on ships, hence the nickname Jack, refers to a ship mounted flag.  The flag dates to 1606.  Due the large colonial British Empire, it is the most common flag in the world, and is included in some form on 23 flags.

Union Jack Flying over Guildford Castle
Union Jack Flying over Guildford Castle, Guildford, England
Tricolor Flags of Europe

There are two types of tricolor flags.  They are vertical and horizontal designs.  Tricolor flags are associated with republics, liberty and revolution.  The French, Italian Romanian and Irish flags were all created on the formation of republics in those countries.  Here are some of our favorite pictures of Tricolor flags:

The German flag flying over the Reichstag, Berlin Germany

Victor Emmanuel Monument
The tricolor flag of Italy flying over the Victor Emmanuel Monument in Rome Italy

To my knowledge, there are only two countries that have the exact same flag.  They are Romania and Chad.

Brasov, Romania
The Romanian Flag flying in Brasov, Romania
The Flag of Turkey

The flag of Turkey, in many ways, recognizes the importance of the old Ottoman Empire.  It is very similar to the last flag of the Ottoman Empire.  The modern flag of Turkey is also has been the inspiration for flags of other Muslim countries.  The crescent and star on the flag is a symbol of Islam.

The Flag of Turkey
The Flag of Turkey
My Final Thoughts

Nations and their borders are created by man.  Most counties have a strong sense of national identity, with ethnic groups that have common languages, religions and customs and traditions.  Some of these countries have been created peacefully but many are a result of war or struggles of independence.  Flag Day makes me proud to be an American.  It makes me prouder yet to have served our country—Happy Birthday to the US Army and more importantly to all who have served.  It also makes me recognize there are many other wonderful folks who live in other nations and it inspires me to want to visit Europe more often.  I want to be a good representative of our country and have more European experiences. 

We hope this will inspire you to remember who were are as Americans, remember the importance of our flag and what it represents, and honor the US Army.  We also need to recognize many of our traditions and ideas came from Europe and by traveling to these places, we learn about our similarities and hopefully learn to embrace our differences.  We stand by to help you: Savor life . . .make memories . . . Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!


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