On Saturday, June 14, Milford Elks Lodge held their Annual Flag Day Celebration, a ceremony required of every Order of the Elks throughout the United States. Past Exalted Ruler Ed Pettit led the ceremony, starting with statements of what the flag represented for the members of the lodge.
“Charity, justice, brotherly love are all symbols of the cardinal principal of the Elks,” Mr. Pettit explained. “One of the principle guidelines of the Elks is to teach a love of country and our flag is a symbol of that love.”
Past Exalted Ruler Ken Debog read the history of the flag as local Girl and Boy Scouts carried the various interpretations of the flag during the ceremony. “From the founding of Jamestown in 1607 until 1775, the Flag of England represented our country,” Mr. Debog said. “In 1775, the Pine Tree Flag was used to represent our country, coming under fire during the Battle of Bunker Hill. From 1776 to 1777, the Southern Colonies used the Snake Flag, which was presented to the Continental Congress.”
In 1775, the Continental Congress organized a committee to consider a new flag design to be used to represent the entire United States. It was decided that the flag consist of thirteen strips of alternating red and white, and an azure corner with the cross of St. Andrew counterchanged with the Cross of Saint Patrick, commonly known as the Union Jack. This flag flew over General Washington’s headquarters and were known as both the Continental Colors and the Grand Union, even though it was never officially sanctioned by the Continental Congress. It was the first flag saluted when Governor De graaf of St. Eustatius Island did so on November 16, 1776. The flag was never carried in battle, but used by the Navy.
On June 14, 1777, Congress ordered that the flag consist of 13 stripes of alternating red and white, with the red representing valor and white representing purity and hope. In addition, one corner was to be blue with 13 white stars imposed on the blue. George Washington commissioned Betsy Ross to create the first flag, which was first flown from Fort Stanwix in what is now Rome, New York, and came under fire as part of the Battle of Oriskany on August 6, 1777. In 1795, two more stripes and stars were added for Kentucky and New Hampshire, and it is this flag that flew over Fort McHenry, inspiring Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner. On April 14, 1818, Congress adopted a resolution that the flag consist of thirteen stripes of alternating red and white to represent the first colonies, and that stars be added on July 4 the year after they enter the union, with one star representing each state. The flag held 48 stars until 1959, when Alaska became a state with the final star being added in 1960 for Hawaii.
“The Order of the Elks is the only organization that requires an annual Flag Day ceremony,” Mr. Pettit explained. “Because we are distinctly American, with no foreign affiliations and the requirement that all members be United States citizens, this ceremony demonstrates the symbolism our flag serves.”
Squire Jeff Spatz explained that the flag showed the heritage of the people of the United States of America. “Who can forget the firefighters raising the flag over the rubble of the World Trade Centers, the men lowering the flag over the side of the Pentagon or the citizens of Somerset, Pennsylvania placing a flag in honor of those who died,” Mr. Spatz said. “There is no other symbol that could have offered the American people such comfort.”
Butch Elzey was the guest speaker at the ceremony, explaining what the flag meant to him. Mr. Elzey, the owner of Troops Barbecue and Fleet Refinishing, is a strong supporter of the military and veterans, spending significant time at Walter Reed Army Hospital visiting wounded warriors, while also donating considerable time and money to veterans organizations throughout the state.
“To me, the flag means freedom,” Mr. Elzey explained. “It means honor, dignity and respect. When I look at that flag, I see Brandon Ross who spent eight years in the Army and the past few years recuperating from a bomb blast. I see Brandon Marco, the first quad amputee who recently underwent an arm transplant. I see Sandy Smith, who spent 20 years in the Army who virtually went in and retrieved bodies of our fallen soldiers. I see the older veterans around town who, to me, are the true heroes in this world. Those guys and gals that defended and still defend our country.”