Old Glory flying high

Communities across the country are celebrating the American flag in honor of the 75th annual Flag Day, which is Friday, June 14.

THORNVILLE — The Perry County local Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks New Lexington Lodge #509 is presenting a flag retirement ceremony, along with the AMVETS Post 51, to celebrate Flag Day. The AMVETS Post 51 will host the free public event Friday at 7 p.m. in Thornville.

The celebration of the United States flag was believed to have originated in 1885 by a school teacher named BJ Cigrand, according to usflag.org. In 1889, New York City school teacher George Balch incorporated the tradition into his classroom. The celebration would gain the attention of several public offices, but it was not an official holiday until Aug. 3, 1949 when President Truman signed an Act of Congress to solidify June 14 of each year as Flag Day.

It is mandatory for every Elks Lodge across the country to perform a ceremony for Flag Day on June 14. For the past few years, the Elks Lodge #509 has been connecting with other veteran associations to join in the ceremony, Past Exalted Ruler Carl Trunko told The Perry County Tribune.

“We kind of came up with the idea to rotate (the ceremony), if possible, to a lot of the organizations throughout the county,” Trunko said.

Friday at 7 p.m., the Elks Lodge #509 and the AMVETS Post 51 of Thornport will be hosting a Flag Day ceremony and a flag retirement program. The post commander for the AMVETS Post 51 is Jeff Zemolong and his organization will run a separate flag retirement ceremony in conjunction with the Elks.

The veteran Elks that will be participating in the program will include Trustee Phil Hillis, Tim Paxton, Past Exalted Ruler Chuck Taylor and Past Exalted Ruler Dave Stickdorn. All of them served during the Vietnam War.

The program will also include Elks member Theodore Shaft who is a veteran of the Iraq War. Shaft enlisted in the Navy in 1986. He was a Gas Turbine Systems Technician in the Navy and was a part of Operation Desert Storm during the Gulf War. He left the Navy in 1991 and has been in Perry County Since December 2017.

“The Elks Lodge #509 asked me and I said absolutely,” Shaft commented.

The various veteran organizations present at the celebration will have the chance to be recognized. Trunko helped organize the program by bringing several different veteran’s organizations together. The Perry County veteran organizations will include AMVETS Post 51, American Legion Post 58 (Somerset), American Legion 188 (New Lexington), American Legion Post 222 (Crooksville), American Legion Post 327 (Corning), American Legion Post (Thornville), American Legion Post 376 (Junction City), Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2806 (New Lexington), Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9090 (Crooksville) and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10918 (Somerset).

The American Legion was organized by Congress in 1919, according to the organization’s website. It is the nation’s largest veteran service organization and its main stance is with issues that face the veteran community.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is an organization that also tries to benefit veterans in the United States. The VFW has roots dating back to 1899 when veterans from the Spanish American War and the Philippines Insurrection banded together to help aid veterans that needed medical care, according to vfwoh.org. Its mission has stayed the same as the veteran’s service organization by giving scholarships and having a strong volunteering base.

After all of the organizations are recognized, a Flag Day ritual will be performed by the Elks Lodge #509. They will detail the history of the flag and why it is so important to honor and respect.

After the flag presentation, the event will acknowledge the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts who will participate in the flag ceremony. The Somerset Boy Scout Troop 257 is led by John Ashcraft and the Junction City Cub Scout Den 260 is led by Dave McGee.

After the scouts are recognized, the presentation will go over the history of how flags are respectfully retired. Then all the flags the Elks and other organizations have gathered will be retired. People who attend the free event and presentation are welcome to bring more flags to be properly retired.

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