All Sections

Home | Veterans

Al Heidenreich's Veterans' Views: Learning flag etiquette, history isn't just for Flag Day

June 06. 2018 9:25PM

Memorial Day has come and gone and aside from a few blips and slips and a morning drip that caused a shift in plans regarding the early outdoor Mass at the Old St. Joseph Cemetery (shift happens), the daylong observances were well-attended and appreciated if you leave out the single ill-advised political and mostly unappreciated rhetoric which I, for one, will remember in the privacy of the voting booth.

Putting together an event such as these is no small undertaking and kudos go out to all involved. Reports from throughout the state are very positive regarding crowd numbers and participants. Congratulate yourselves, New Hampshirites!

In a post-Veterans Day column last year, I commented on the number of events honoring those who have served our nation throughout the years as well as the thousands in uniform at present, and the theme continues today. That previous edition stated that “every day should be Veterans Day” and the same holds true regarding Memorial Day.

One day or even a long weekend does not allow anywhere near enough time to attend more than a few events at best and it can be frustrating to veterans’ organizations to accommodate the invitations. While there is no magic fix-all solution, I offer a suggestion: Plan events on non-holiday occasions so the events won’t conflict with each other. Any time is an appropriate time to honor veterans and I can assure you that it would be most welcome and appreciated.

Here is one example. Flag Day is June 14.

I recently appeared before the Manchester school committee with a plan that would have an Honor Guard team of veterans host an assembly at each school; the assemblies would feature flag etiquette, flag history, a folding ceremony, a question-and-answer period and a presentation of a book to the school libraries for future reference.

The first few of these programs were extremely well received and are now available to all local schools and organizations and are expected to be held periodically during the academic year. This program will also be available to private venues such as businesses, service clubs, assisted living facilities and many more. There is no charge, of course. More info? You know where to find me.

Upcoming ceremonies

There is a Flag Day ceremony Monday, June 11. The Monday of Flag Day week is traditionally the time selected by Henry J. Sweeney American Legion Post 2 to present its annual flag retirement program of properly disposing of no-longer-serviceable Stars and Stripes banners. A ceremonial burning of one will take place on the Post grounds with full military honors, co-hosted by the ladies’ Auxiliary unit and the Sons of the American Legion. It begins at 5:30 p.m. A BBQ will be offered at 6 p.m. and The Alumni Band of the NH National Guard will provide a concert in the Post hall from 7:30 to 9 p.m. The public is welcome and parking is free.

On June 14, there will be a full naturalization ceremony in which 30 new citizens will be inducted as welcome members of these great United States after their successful completion of their courses and tests. The public is invited to witness this impressive ceremony as the participants complete their long journey. The smiles and tears will warm your heart. Suggested arrival time is 8:30 a.m. at the 251 Maple St. Sweeney Post quarters.

Sticking with June 14, be sure to wish any and all U.S. Army veterans (and current members) a happy 243rd birthday! (I know I don’t look it but some days I feel it!) Thank you!

A gift in honor of the U.S. Coast Guard

Back to Memorial Day 2018.

I have no idea how it happened, why it happened or ... OK, but it did happen. Should it have happened? Absolutely not! But it did. Misunderstanding? Miscommunication? Oversight? All of the above. So how to correct it? Let me count the ways.

What the two sticks am I referring to?

After the Memorial Day parade and ceremonies at Veterans Park, a very impressive salute to the five armed service branches took place; new flags and flagpoles were dedicated in their honor as their anthems were played by the West High School band.

So what’s the problem?

The flags and poles for each branch were sponsored and paid for by donations from military-oriented organizations to the tune of $1,600 per. Two of the groups I belong to sponsored the Army and Air Force flags and poles, and two others stepped up for the Navy and Marine Corps.

Notice anything?

You got it. No Coast Guard sponsor.

This did not hinder the construction or dedication but it leaves a void in the sponsorship listing. Unintentional of course. I mentioned this to a fellow veteran the other day and suggested that we should have a fundraiser to rectify the situation. I was surprised when he said it would be near impossible after the fact. Wrong thing to say to me. Again, this was no slight to the Coasties, just an unfortunate oversight.

Fast forward to plan A: (1) If every C.G. vet coughed up a buck it would cover it. (2) If every fellow vet from the other four branches did likewise, we would definitely pay the bill. (3) If friends and relatives of all those who served dropped a buck in the bucket we would more than succeed. (4) If everyone who just wants to be a part of this joins in we could have one heck of a rededication on the U.S. Coast Guard’s 228th birthday Aug. 4, 2018.

Plan B: There is none.

Make checks payable to CG Flag Fund, 53 Lincoln St., Manchester, NH 03103. (No cash please — I am married and not allowed to handle money.)

D-Day trivia

Wednesday was the 74th anniversary of the landing of the bravest of the brave of the greatest generation on the beaches of France, D-Day, 1944. Not many of them are still around, but “thank you,” and God bless those still among us.

Question: How many readers know what the D in D-Day stands for?

Answer: D-Day ... You could all be right or you could all be wrong (including me). I was seven days shy of becoming a teenager on that date and I clearly remember someone telling me it meant “debarkation day” and I want to believe it to this day but alas, no proof. Despite all the speculation and guessing, it really simply comes down to “D” is for “Day,” as in the first day of a military operation.

Al Heidenreich is past commander of Henry J. Sweeney American Legion Post 2. Write to Al with your questions and comments at


More Headlines