AUGUSTA -- On June 14, 2006, the Maine Elks Association (MEA) held its annual Flag Day service at the Togus V.A. Medical Center in Augusta. The service commemorated the 229th Anniversary of the adoption of the "Stars and Stripes." Over 45 veterans and Elk members attended the event, which was held in the hospital's chapel. The chapel was wired with a closed-circuit television system so that veterans throughout the facility could watch the service from their rooms.
The ceremony was opened by Past State President James Ferland, who introduced the current State President, Gregory Daniels. Following Daniels opening remarks; introductory exercises were then performed by the State Officers, followed by a history of the American Flag, presented by Past State President Claris Ranger. Music was provided for the event.
During the reading of the Flag's history, Exalted Ruler�s from several of Maine's twenty-two Lodges displayed replicas of the flags that were being described. 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.
Following the presentation of historic Flags, Daniels gave a tribute; to honor the American Flag, followed by a response given by Past State President Phil O'Brion of Jay. In his response, O'Brion 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, O'Brion 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 the MEA's Chaplain, Donald Dow of Pittsfield. Dow 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. To remind those in attendance of the importance of the principals for which the Flag stands.
After reciting the Pledge, MEA 1st Vice-President, Bruce Brunelle then read a piece called "I am your Flag," an essay depicting the Flag's point of view toward Americanism today. State President Daniels then closed the service. At the close of the ceremony, Daniels presented an American Flag to 90-year old World War II Veteran Carlton Munroe of Round Pond, Maine, thanking him for his service to his country. Munroe, who had served on PT boats during the war, is currently a resident at the Togus V.A. Medical Center Nursing Home Care Unit.
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.
|MEA State President Greg Daniels (left) presents 90-year old veteran Carlton Munroe with an American Flag following the Flag Day Services at Togus VA Medical Center in Augusta. Pictured at right is Cheryl Lajoie, Chaplain of the Augusta Elks Lodge #964|