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News from Nearby: Big Flag Day Festival on Saturday in Somerville

SOMERVILLE, N.J. - The American flag has been a symbol of our country’s freedoms and ideals for more than two centuries. In downtown Somerville on Saturday, everyone is invited to celebrate the flag – perhaps the country’s most revered symbol - and to enjoy the festivities during the third annual Flag Day Festival.

The event begins at 11:30 a.m. on the Somerset County Courthouse steps and continues until 4 p.m.

The program will include a re-enactment of the historic photograph of Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945. The Somerville Elks will also conduct a special Flag Day flag ceremony, normally performed within its lodge, to commemorate the birth of the American flag and remind attendees of the importance of honoring the flag as a symbol of our freedoms. 

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Somerville Mayor Brian Gallagher and Somerset County Freeholder Director Patricia Walsh and members of the Somerville Elks Lodge will be among the speakers to officially kick off the festival with AT&T volunteers at noon.

John Dorell, Somerset County resident and founder of Operation Jersey Cares - nonprofit dedicated to helping our troops overseas and those who have returned home - will be honored with the Flag Day Festival Defender of Freedom Award, presented by AT&T.

“We are so honored to recognize John’s patriotic spirit and tireless dedication to our troops serving overseas and those who have returned home,” said Jill Marsh, Exalted Ruler of the Somerville Elks Lodge. “When AT&T volunteered to present this award which honors a citizen who exemplifies the spirit of our American flag, John’s nomination stood out. His personal commitment to find ways to support our troops while teaching each generation to respect those who have served is a shining example of what Flag Day should mean for everyone.”

Dorell served in the Army National Guard for six years and retired in 1967 to return home and run his family business in Somerville. Over the years, he also gave back to his local community with an emphasis on supporting veteran’s services and in 2007 founded Operation Jersey Cares to support troops and military families. Since then, the organization has shipped more than 500,000 pounds of goods to soldiers overseas to help lift the spirits of those serving our country and to supplement military rations.

“AT&T is honored to recognize John Dorell for his efforts to make every soldier deployed and every veteran at home feel appreciated for their service to our country,” said J. Michael Schweder, Mid-Atlantic president for AT&T. “We hope the public comes out in force to enjoy all of the ‘red, white and blue’ festivities, learn some interesting facts about the American flag and support our brave service men and women at home and abroad.”

AT&T New Jersey Pioneers will be on hand to teach attendees the proper way to fold the American flag. Pocket-sized American flags will be mailed to U.S. troops. The Pioneers are also collecting used cell phones from the public that will be donated to Cell Phones for Soldiers. The organization uses the proceeds from recycled cell phones to buy long-distance calling cards for military stationed overseas and home so they can connect with their loved ones.

AT&T Pioneers are employees and retirees who volunteer and give back to their communities. Worn flags will be collected for proper retirement by the American Legion.

The public is encouraged to bring donation items to support Operation Jersey Cares including instant oatmeal, canned tuna or chicken, granola bars, beef jerky, trail mix, or everyday items including razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste and shampoo. Veterans and service members in attendance will receive free ice cream from the ice cream vendor.

The event is free and will feature live music including a performance from Lauren Bonnell, a 19-year old singer-songwriter who has nearly 20 million YouTube views.

Children will be entertained by a bouncy house and carnival games, and are encouraged to complete in a scavenger hunt on the grounds for prizes.

Revolutionary war re-enactors will bring alive local history. Historic military vehicles and muskets and SWAT vehicles will also be on display and attendees will also see a drill with New Jersey’s Revolutionary War Heard’s Brigade.

Flag Day is sponsored by AT&T, Star 99.1 and Fulton Bank. It is part of the Somerville Elks’ commitment to the community through programs that help children grow up healthy and drug-free, by undertaking projects that address unmet needs and by honoring the service and sacrifice of our military and veterans.

More details on what to bring for the troops and the event itself can be found on the event’s website www.FlagDayFestival.org.

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