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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR READERS: This moving piece has become something of a Fourth of July tradition:

YOUR FLAG

Hello. Remember me? Some people call me Old Glory, others call me the Star-Spangled Banner, but whatever they call me, I am your flag, the flag of the United States of America.

Something has been bothering me, so I thought I might talk it over with you -- because it is about you and me.

I remember some time ago, people would line up on both sides of the street to watch the parade, and naturally I was leading every one, proudly waving in the breeze.

When your daddy saw me coming, he immediately removed his hat and placed it against his left shoulder so that his hand was directly over his heart -- remember?

And you, I remember, were standing there, straight as a soldier. You didn't have a hat, but you were giving the right salute. Remember your little sister? Not to be outdone, she was saluting the same as you with her right hand over her heart -- remember?

What happened? I'm still the same old flag. Oh, I've added a few more stars since you were a boy, and a lot more blood has been shed since those parades of long ago.

But now, somehow I don't feel as proud as I used to feel. When I come down your street, you just stand there with your hands in your pickets. You may give me a small glance, and then you look away. I see children running around you shouting; they don't seem to know who I am.

I saw one man take his hat off, then he looked around, and when he didn't see anybody else take off his hat, he quickly put his on again.

Is it a sin to be patriotic today? Have you forgotten what I stand for and where I have been? Anzio, Guadalcanal, Korea and Vietnam!

Take a look at the memorial honor rolls and see the names of those patriotic Americans who gave their lives to keep this republic free. When you salute me, you are actually saluting them.

Well, it won't be long until I'll be coming down your street again. So when you see me, please stand straight and place your hand over your heart, and I'll know that you remembered. I'll salute you by waving back! -- PAUL C. GRAHAM

DEAR ABBY: A while back, you answered a woman who wanted to know when it is appropriate to fly the American flag. I thought you would like to see the list from "Flag Code, Directions for Use" that was published by the U.S. Army in 1918:

Feb. 12 .... Lincoln's Birthday

Feb. 22 .... Washington's Birthday

April 19 ... Battle of Lexington

June 14 .... Flag Day

July 4 ..... Independence Day

Oct. 17 .... Saratoga Day

Oct. 19 .... Yorktown Surrender

Nov. 25 .... Evacuation of Yorktown

And long may it wave! -- ELLEN SUE TURNER, SAN ANTONIO

DEAR ELLEN SUE: Thank you for a fascinating bit of history. Since I published in January the "modern list" of dates for flying the flag, readers have pointed out that Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Father's Day were missing -- so I'm adding them now. Happy Fourth of July, everyone.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY WOMB-MATE IN CHICAGO -- We were 12 years old before we realized that all the fireworks and flag-waving were not in honor of our birthday!

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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