Perhaps the flagpole legend was not intended to be taken literally and was merely created as a prankish bit of misinformation used in the initiation of new recruits (much in the vein of the “snipe hunt,” a ritual in which newcomers to a group are sent in quest of ridiculous, non-existent objects, their naivety in undertaking such tasks providing a source of great glee to the all-knowing veteran members). If so, that the legend is now widely-believed (or at least taken seriously enough to be questioned) might demonstrate that the legend has since taken on the secondary, unintended effect of reinforcing the symbolic importance of both the flag and a soldier’s devotion to duty.
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