SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - A sense of pride and patriotism filled Elks Lodge #2298 during the Elks Flag Day Service that took place on the evening of June 14th. The annual event celebrates the anniversary of the American Flag, which was adopted by the United States Congress in 1777. Commemorating the birth and history of the American Flag, the service consisted of presentations and patriotic songs.
“Welcome everybody and thank you for attending South Plainfield Lodge #2298’s Flag Day Service,” said Exalted Ruler Christine Sauer.
The Annual Elks Flag Day Service observes the American Flag, remembering its history. The Elks hold closely to the principals of charity, justice, brotherly love, fidelity and believe strongly in patriotism and honoring the country’s veterans.
The service began as Elks Officers lined the front of the room dressed in the formal attire of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, which is used for ritualistic ceremonies. Symbolic jewels adorned their necks.
An American Flag from 1887, which had been passed down for generations in the Reuter family, lay displayed in the front of the room as Past Vice President Debbie Czech led the assembly in singing Francis Scott Key’s famous, “Star Spangled Banner.” Two Year Trustee Tim Kelly began reading, “The History of the Flag.” The story of the American Flag unfolded as scouts and fathers from Boy Scouts of Troop #124 carried American Flags into the room one by one.
“In response to a general demand for a banner more representative of our country,” said Kelly as he relayed the historical account of the American Flag. “Congress on June 14, 1777, provided - ‘That the Flag of the United States be thirteen stripes of alternating red and white; and that the union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new Constellation.’”
The story of the Flag’s rich history continued as the Elks Officers took turns at the podium, describing how the Flag came to reflect the evolution of the country from the very beginning to the present flag of 50 stars and thirteen stripes, which stands as a symbol of hope, freedom and unity.
Chairperson of Youth Activities Sharon Reuter spoke of images of patriotism in the face of horror after 911. She recounted how the Flag offered comfort in the face of terrorism as it was raised by firefighters over the rubble of the World Trade Center, by military personnel who draped the Flag over the side of the Pentagon and by citizens who placed the Flag in Somerset County, PA, where brave Americans died on Flight 93.
“What is the meaning of the Flag of the United States?” asked Reuter, posing the question to the assembly. “There can never be a definitive answer to that question….Reference to these and similar views of the Flag was resolved by Woodrow Wilson when he said: ‘This Flag, which we honor and under which we serve, is the emblem of our unity, our power, our thought and shape of this nation. It has no other character than that which we give it from generation to generation. The Choices are ours.’”
The American Flag has been carried by American Armed Forces into the villages if Iraq, the mountains of Afghanistan and the jungles of the Philippines, and it flies over the town of South Plainfield, its schools and homes, as a symbol of freedom and unity as a people.
“Only love, true love of our fellow man, can create peace,” said Reuter. “The emblem and token of that love is the Stars and Stripes, the symbol of the American way of life.”
After joining voices to sing Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” Sauer asked everyone to stand and say “The Pledge of Allegiance,” a tradition since 1892 when Francis Bellany first wrote the words.
“Let us stand and pledge ourselves never to forget the principles represented by this Flag,” said Sauer.
Patriotism and respect for the nation’s veterans are among the many charitable focuses of the Elks Association as a whole. The Elks’ Veterans Committee supports older veterans as well as those coming home. Programs like “Army of Hope” help veterans acclimate to regular civilian life after serving the country.
“My son is a veteran,” said Sauer. “He came home from the Navy injured and it took him quite awhile to adjust to being home, so it’s wonderful to have these programs in place to support the veterans.”
Councilman Derryck White was asked to speak on behalf of the Council of South Plainfield.
“For me, this is always a very moving ceremony,” said White. “It is so touching to hear the history of the flag, to hear the intent behind the flag, to hear the commitment to its longevity and to have it be a symbol of something greater then just a group of people who had a dream, but to have it be a symbol of something that lasted…We have an opportunity to create a legacy around this symbol. We have a responsible to make the legacy continue, to make sure the Flag represents what it should and what it was intended to represent.”
As the service came to a close, Sauer thanked each Officer, naming them as they stood: Leading Knight Janice Campos (PER), Loyal Knight Dan Uken (PER), Lecturing Knight Eileen Uken, Secretary Sandi Smith, Treasurer Carol Macellara, Esquire Thomas Browne, Chaplain Janice Dube, Tiler Paul Leepin, Inner Guard Margaret Williams, 5 Year Trustee Bill Reuter (PDD), 4 Year Trustee Ray Horvath (PER), 3 Year Trustee Rich Salvatore, 2 Year Trustee Tim Kelly, 1 Year Trustee Tom Brady, Chairperson of Youth Activities Sharon Ruggiero Reuter, and Public Relations and Chairperson of Elks National Foundation (ENF) Suzanne Purcell.
Those who attended expressed their great sense of pride in America, respect for the American Flag and gratitude for the Elks Lodge #2298 for honoring the great privilege of freedom that the American Flag represents.
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