On June 14, 2007, members and officers of the Maine Elks Association (MEA) held their annual Flag Day service at the Togus V.A. Medical Center in Augusta. The service commemorated the 232nd anniversary of the adoption of the "Stars and Stripes." The ceremony was held on behalf of veterans at the hospital, which was broadcast on the VA center's closed-circuit television system.
The ceremony was opened by Dwayne Guy of the Rockland Elks Lodge, serving as Master of Ceremonies. He introduced State President Michael Powers of the Houlton Elks Lodge, who, along with fellow officers performed the introductory exercises for the event. A history of the American Flag was then presented by Past State President Robert Drisko of the Augusta Elks Lodge.
During the reading of the Flag's history, Exalted Ruler's from several of Maine's twenty-two Lodges presented each flag while accompanied by music provided by John Plummer of the Augusta Elks Lodge. Flags that were presented included the Pine Tree Flag of 1775, the Snake Flag of 1776-1777, a Flag bearing the red cross of St. George and the White Cross of St. Andrew of 1775, the Grand Union Flag of 1777, the Fort McHenry Flag of 1812, the 20-star Flag of 1818, the 48-star Flag, and today's 50-star Flag, accompanied by the POW-MIA Flag, remembering those who have served their country and were either held prisoner or are still missing in action.
Following the presentation of the Flags, a response was given by Roger Sicard, Past Grand Inner Guard, and Secretary of the Biddeford-Saco Elks Lodge. In his response, Sicard paid tribute to the men and women who had fought to protect our nation's Flag; from the Revolutionary War to the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Sicard also gave recognition to the sacrifices made by so many of the hospital's veterans throughout the years.
Following the response, an inspirational reading was given by MEA 1st Vice-President Wayne Cotterly of the Lewiston Elks Lodge. Cotterly read portions of a stirring speech given by U.S. Senator John McCain at the Republican National Convention in 1988. McCain's speech referenced a fellow prisoner of war, Mike Christian, who had created a makeshift American Flag, and who had sewn it to the inside of his shirt. The shirt would be hung in the cell at meal time, to which the prisoners would recite the Pledge of Allegiance. One day, the North Vietnamese had searched the cell, and found the flag sewn inside the shirt. Christian, who had created the flag was subsequently beaten severely, but upon his return to the cell, though badly injured, had begun creating a new flag. "He was not making that flag because it made Mike Christian feel better. He was making that flag because he knew how important it was for us to be able to pledge our allegiance to our flag and our country," said McCain. His message was to remind those in attendance of the importance of the principals for which the Flag stands. The Pledge of Allegiance was then recited.
Following this, MEA 2nd Vice-President John Nicholson of the Millinocket Elks Lodge read a piece called "Hello, Remember Me?" an essay depicting the Flag's point of view toward Americanism today. Cotterly the read a description of the meaning behind each of the folds of the flag, and Nicholson read a poem entitled "A Soldier Died Today." The service concluded with a singing of "God Bless America."
At the conclusion of the event, MEA State President Powers and several of the officers and members traveled directly to the veterans rooms in the hospital, and presented them with small American Flags to commemorate the day.
Each year, Flag Day is celebrated to commemorate the adoption of the Stars and Stripes by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. This observance was made official in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson, who declared the date as National Flag Day. In 1949, President Harry Truman signed an Act of Congress proclaiming that the Flag of the United States would be displayed on all government buildings on June 14th, and asked that the American people join in the observance of the Flag's anniversary.
|Pictured above (Left) are L-R: James York, Dwayne Guy, John Nicholson, Michael Powers, Wayne Cotterly, Robert Drisko, and Roger Sicard.|