Flag Day ceremony

Scoutmaster Dale Somer, far left, of Troop 25 and scouts, clockwise, Cole Funk, Tyler Slapinski, Alex Park and Will Black conducted a flag-burning ceremony for retired American flags at the Elks Lodge on Fairgrounds Road in Smithfield Township Friday night, while color guard members, from the left, Jim Honstine, George Green, Mike Knode, Bill Caufield and Samm Harker looked on.

This year’s Flag Day Ceremony at Elks Lodge 976 was a “solemn yet beautiful occasion,” as Exalted Ruler Gary Huff remarked at the start of the event.

“We are an organization that is distinctly American, extremely patriotic and without counterpart,” said Huff.

Every Elks Lodge in the country participates in a Flag Day ceremony and it was that organization which had the first formal observance of Flag Day.

“The carrying of banners has been a custom among people of all ages.” said Esteemed Leading Knight Scott Casner. “The flag is the heritage of the people of the United States. It has been repurchased by each succeeding generation and must be again and again until the end of time,”

Apart from Elks members, the ceremony was administered by the Standing Stone Veterans of Foreign Wars color guard and the local Boys Scout of America troops, with a large audience of local residents attending.

The guest speaker, an Elk member, veteran and the mayor of Huntingdon Borough, was David Wessels.

“I’ve had the distinct privilege of being a part of no less than seven of these ceremonies and every year I still get goosebumps,” said Wessels. “This glorious flag is actually a vessel. We pour our heart and souls, our works, our passions, our desires and all of our being as a nation into this flag and it takes on a life of its own because of that. It represents all of us continually without us asking it to do so. This isn’t mere patriotism.”

Wessels ended his speech on a reflective note.

“Simply, there is one thing I want to leave you with. Today is not the day for thanks, today is not the day for lament, but today is the day when the flag should serve to remind us to look inward to who we are as a nation, as a state, as a community and as one people.”

At the end of the ceremony, retired flags from the previous 12 months were burnt by the members of Boy Scout Troop 25 while the VFW color guard presided over the proceedings.

Burning is one of the accepted means of retiring an American flag.

After the ceremony those in attendance sat down to eat and fellowship together.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

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