Fifth graders at FMIS have a lesson on flag etiquette from retired major general...

By Linda Hicks

Retired Major General Ron Chastain, last week, was teaching flag etiquette to fifth graders at Frank Mitchell Intermediate School in Vilonia.  

Dressed in a dark blue suit, Chastain’s two prompts were an Arkansas flag and a United States flag. Holding the small flags, he pointed out the similarities in color and the proper ways to post. The state flag of Arkansas is red, white, and blue to signify that Arkansas is one of the United States, he told the children. The large diamond represents the only diamond producing state in the U.S.  The 25 white stars show Arkansas as the 25th state to join the Union. Three blue stars below the word Arkansas are symbols for the three nations which ruled Arkansas before it became a state (Spain, France, and the United States) and also signify that Arkansas was the third state created out of the Louisiana Purchase. The fourth lone star above the word Arkansas represents the Confederacy.

He spent a majority of an hour, however, talking about the U.S. flag stressing several points.

“I ask you to always respect the flag. I know people who have died in service to this country. That is why it means so much to me.”

When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object. To store the flag it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously. When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner.

When it is displayed from the same flagpole with another flag - of a state, community, society or Scout unit - the flag of the United States must always be at the top. When flown with other flags of states, communities, or societies on separate flag poles which are of the same height and in a straight line, the flag of the United States is always placed in the position of honor - to its own right.

 ..The other flags may be smaller but none may be larger.

 ..No other flag ever should be placed above it.

 ..The flag of the United States is always the first flag raised and the last to be lowered.

--The flag should be raised briskly and lowered slowly and ceremoniously. Ordinarily it should be displayed only between sunrise and sunset. It should be illuminated if displayed at night.

 --The flag of the United States of America is saluted as it is hoisted and lowered. The salute is held until the flag is unsnapped from the halyard or through the last note of music, whichever is the longest.

--When on display, the flag is accorded the place of honor, always positioned to its own right. Place it to the right of the speaker or staging area or sanctuary. Other flags should be to the left.

--When one flag is used with the flag of the United States of America and the staffs are crossed, the flag of the United States is placed on its own right with its staff in front of the other flag.

--When displaying the flag against a wall, vertically or horizontally, the flag's union (stars) should be at the top.

Chastain enlisted the help of students regarding the salute. To salute, all persons come to attention. Those in uniform give the appropriate formal salute. Citizens not in uniform salute by placing their right hand over the heart and men with head cover should remove it and hold it to left shoulder, hand over the heart.

Also, he addressed the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem in the classroom or at events such as ballgames. When the national anthem is played or sung, citizens should stand at attention and salute at the first note and hold the salute through the last note. The salute is directed to the flag, if displayed, otherwise to the music.

Other flag points, Chastain said:

--The flag should be lighted at all times, either by sunlight or by an appropriate light source.

--The flag should be flown in fair weather, unless the flag is designed for inclement weather use.

--The flag be flown upside down only as a distress signal.

--The flag should not be used for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.

--The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations.

--The flag should never be used for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

Other than introducing himself, Chastain told the students little about his military service other than that he has served in two wars. He didn’t tell them was that he commanded the 25th Rear Area Operations Center during Operation Desert Storm, and he led more than 4,000 soldiers in an 18-month tour of duty in Iraq as commander of the 39th Infantry Brigade of the Arkansas National Guard. The 39th is designated as one of 15 enhanced brigades, which are manned, equipped, and trained to a high level of readiness for rapid response upon call from the president.

Chastain told the students, his “real job” now is working for U.S. Senator John Boozeman as a congressional staffer.