The U.S. flag retired Friday during the annual Flag Day ceremony at Elks BPOE Lodge 1944 once flew over the nation’s capitol in Washington, D.C. The flag that will fly above the lodge for the next 12 months once draped the casket of a Korean War veteran.
Mary Ann Michael donated the flag that covered the casket of her brother, John Dennis McIntyre. McIntyre, 78, who was a resident of Ripley, Ohio, died Dec. 3, 2010.
According to his obituary, McIntyre was a United States Air Force Korean War Veteran. He served as a firefighter at Haneda Air Force Base in Tokyo, Japan, and made many missions to Korea between 1951 and 1954.
He was buried in Pisgah Cemetery near Ripley with full military honors.
The colors were presented and retired by U.S. Navy Sea Cadets, Chattanooga Division. Boy Scout Troop 10, sponsored by Broad Street United Methodist Church disposed of the retired flag.
The scouts unfolded and held the flag open for a final hand salute. It was cut lengthwise to separate the stripes from the upper half, which included the canton. The canton was left intact because the 50 states should never be separated. The blue field was cut from the remaining stripes and at that point, the pieces were no longer a flag and were ready to be burned.
Bailey Rafferty sang the “Star Spangled Banner” and Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland gave the invocation.
Brig. Gen. Isaac G. Osborne Jr., assistant adjutant general of the Tennessee National Guard, who spoke in 2012, renewed the call for older citizens to teach younger generations that respect for the flag is more than just reverence for a piece of material, it is appreciation of the American way of life.
“Remember,” he said, “just because our flag has flown for over 200 years does not mean it can’t be devalued or forgotten in a fraction of that time. It’s our job as Americans to preserve, protect and promote it every way we can. Thank you for being up to the job and for helping to celebrate this inspirational symbol of our great country.”
He urged Americans to remember the sacrifices of so many who have fought and died to preserve the flag and the ideals for which it stands. Remember the Marine Corps War Memorial near Arlington Cemetery and how those Marines fought for Iwo Jima, how many lives were lost and what a privilege it was for those survivors to raise the flag over the tiny island.
The general lamented that Flag Day is unobserved by most Americans since it is not a federal holiday. He commended the Elks Lodge for its efforts and thanked military veterans for their service.
“For so many years this day has gone relatively unnoticed, celebrated mainly by military, veterans and organizations like the Elks that know the meaning of service and what our flag represents,” he said. “Today, as we wage a global war on terrorism and watch as our flag is burned and destroyed by our enemies, we can appreciate even more the freedom this symbol represents.
Elks Lodge Exalted Ruler Aaron Ware said the flag of the United States of America represents the worldwide hope of all, who under God, would be free to live and do His will.
“Upon its folds is written the story of America, the epic of the mightiest and noblest in all history,” he stated as he read from a script. “In the day when peoples of the old world groveled in abject homage to the heresy of ‘the divine right of kings,’ a new constellation appeared in the western skies, the Stars and Stripes, symbolizing the divine right of all to life, liberty, happiness and peace under endowment by their Creator.”
He said the heritage of the people of the United States has been repurchased by each succeeding generation and must be won again, again and again until the end of time, “lest it too shall pass like the ancient Empires of Greece and Rome.
“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. What was won at Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill had to be repurchased at Ticonderoga and Yorktown.”
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks is a distinctly American organization formally organized in 1868 in New York City. Its declared purposes are to practice its four cardinal virtues: charity, justice, brotherly love and fidelity. The Elks has celebrated the flag since the early days of the organization and allegiance to the flag is a requirement of every member.
The idea of an Elks Flag Day service was first suggested in 1907. The club formally designated June 14 as Flag Day in 1911. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation officially establishing June 14 as Flag Day. It wasn’t until August 1949 that national Flag Day was established by an act of Congress and signed by President Harry Truman.