Why do Elks Wear Red Shirts on Fridays?

February 2, 2024
Many of you have asked about “Red Shirt Friday” and how it started. Here is the story as it was introduced in Washington and Alaska. I believe it was February 2004, when Mike Manning, Director of the “Elks National Veterans Service Commission”, handed out the attached article during the ENVSC meeting. Being a veteran, and having served in a combat arena, this simple but meaningful gesture touched me. However, no action was taken by the Commission at that time.  When I returned to Washington, I mentioned the idea of wearing Red on Fridays at our April meeting. It was overwhelmingly supported. The following month I  was at the Alaska Convention, and again brought up the “Red Shirts.” The Alaska members were all for it. In June, Washington held their State Convention, and it was a sea of red on friday. Not everyone, but most, were wearing Red shirts. Those not in red, paid a small fine. On friday at Grand Lodge, you could almost tell who was from either Washington or Alaska. (In Alaska, if you did not wear Red at a Friday meeting, you had better have a $100 bill with you, as that is the minimum fine up North). Since then, “Red Shirt Friday” has spread to Oregon, Idaho, and beyond. When this started in 2004, I was very fortunate to serve with State and Lodge leaders who were of the same mindset as me.
It is a small gesture, to show support and thank our Veterans, and current military members.
We can always do more!
Roger R. True, PGER
1st Infantry Division
Viet Nam 1967-1968

The article referenced in the story above:

Last week(2004), while traveling to Chicago on business, I noticed a Marine sergeant traveling with a folded flag, but did not put two and two together. After we boarded our flight, I turned to the sergeant, who’d been invited to sit in First Class (across from me), and inquired if he was heading home. No, he responded. Heading out I asked? No. I’m escorting a soldier home.  Going to pick him up? No. He is with me right now. He was killed in Iraq , I’m taking him home to his family.

The realization of what he had been asked to do hit me like a punch to the gut. It was an honor for him. He told me that, although he didn’t know the soldier, he had delivered the news of his passing to the soldier’s Family and felt as if he knew them after many conversations in so few days. I turned back to him, extended my hand, and said, Thank you. Thank you for doing what you do so my family and I can do what we do.

Upon landing in Chicago the pilot stopped short of the gate and made the following announcement over the intercom. “Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to note that we have had the honor of having Sergeant Steeley of the United States Marine Corps join us on this flight. He is escorting a fallen comrade back home to
his family. I ask that you please remain in your seats when we open the forward door to allow Sergeant Steeley to deplane and receive his fellow soldier. We will then turn off the seat belt sign.” Without a sound, all went as requested. I noticed the sergeant saluting the casket as it was brought off the plane, and his action made me realize that I am proud to be an American.

So here’s a public Thank You to our military Men and Women for what you do so we can live the way we do. Red Fridays.

Very soon, you will see a great many people wearing Red every Friday. The reason? Americans who support our troops used to be called the “silent majority.” We are no longer silent, and are voicing our love for God, country and home in record breaking numbers. We are not organized, boisterous or overbearing. Many Americans, like you, me and all our friends, simply want to recognize that the vast majority of America supports our troops. Our idea of showing solidarity and support for our troops with dignity and respect Starts this Friday — and continues each and every Friday until the troops all come home, sending a deafening message that .. Every red-blooded American who supports our men and women afar, will wear something red.

By word of mouth, press, TV — let’s make the United States on every Friday a sea of red much like a home coming football game in the bleachers. If every one of us who loves this country will share this with acquaintances, coworkers, friends, and family, it will not be long before the USA is covered in RED and it will let our troops know the once “silent” majority is on their side more than ever, certainly more than the media lets on. The first thing a soldier says when asked “What can we do to make things better for you?” is. “We need your support and your prayers.” Let’s get the word out and lead with class and dignity, by example, and wear Something red every Friday.

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