Symbol of Hope, Pride and Sacrifice

Have you seen this flag somewhere, perhaps flying on a residential pole or hanging in the front window of a home?  Some people are confused about its meaning, and very few among us can remember when and why it was first displayed, almost a century ago.  As proud Americans, we should all know what it means and say a silent “thank you” as we pass by.

 This is the “service” flag, first displayed during WWI to signify a family member serving in the Armed Forces. It was designed and patented by WWI Army Captain Robert L. Queissner of the 5th Ohio Infantry who had two sons serving on the front line.  It quickly became the unofficial symbol for a child in the service, and was also known as the “blue star banner” or the “son in service” flag.  Typically, it was displayed in a window as a banner, suspended by a horizontal dowel across the top and held by a gold cord. Multiple blue stars represented each child of the family in the armed services.  If the child died, the blue star was covered by a gold one.  The blue star represents hope and pride, and the gold star represents sacrifice to the cause of liberty and freedom.

 By World War II, service flags were seen in nearly every window.  The Department of War issued specifications for the manufacture of the service flag as well as guidelines indicating when and by whom the Service flag could be flown.  These specifications were made official in 1967 when the United States Congress “codified” the Service Flag (United States Code, Title 36, Section 901):

 A service flag approved by the Secretary of Defense may be displayed in a window of the place of residence of individuals who are members of the immediate family of an individual serving in the Armed Forces of the United States during any period of war or hostilities in which the Armed Forces of the United States are engaged.

 The Service flag may also be displayed by an organization to honor the members of that organization serving in the Armed Forces of theUnited States during any period of war or hostilities, including the current War on Terrorism.

 The service banner and flag are to have dimensions in the same ratio as the United Statesflag: 10:19.  In general, the window banners are 8” x 15.2”.  The outdoor flag should be the same size or smaller than theU.S.flag, if flown together, and theU.S.flag should be given the position of honor.

 It is often said that it is the family of service members who face the most difficult situations and sacrifice.  Service flags are one way families can be recognized, honored, appreciated and ultimately helped through their challenging times.

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