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Elks celebrate Flag Day at Norwood Village Green

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NORWOOD - Potsdam Elks Lodge 2704 continued a tradition Friday afternoon when they joined with Norwood’s American Legion Post 68 for Flag Day ceremonies at the Norwood Village Green.

It’s something that the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks throughout the United States have been doing since more than a century.

“It was the Elks that lobbied for Flag Day. It is now a national holiday,” Norwood Mayor James H. McFaddin told a crowd that gathered on a sunny afternoon to watch the ceremony.

The Elks have been associated with Flag Day since 1907 when the BPO Elks Grand Lodge designated by resolution June 14 as Flag Day. The Grand Lodge of the Order adopted mandatory observance of the occasion by every Lodge in 1911, and that requirement continues.

The Elks prompted President Woodrow Wilson to recognize the order’s observance of Flag Day for its patriotic expression. But it was not until 1949 when President Harry Truman, a member of the Elks, made the proclamation that June 14 would be a day of national observance for the flag.

In 1911 the observance was made mandatory in all lodges, making the Elks the first organization in the United States to do so.

“We’re here today to our flag. For 245 years our flag has served as a symbol of freedom at home and worldwide,” Mr. McFaddin said as he stood in front of three flags, one that was flown over the U.S. Capitol and was presented to them by Congressman William Owens, another that flew in Afghanistan and the third that flew in Iraq.

The purpose of the day, according to Elks Lodge 2704 Exalted Ruler Wayne Boak, was to “honor our country’s flag, to celebrate the anniversary of its birth.”

The ceremony included representatives from all branches of the armed forces and local Boy Scouts from the Northern Lights District, who one by one carried a version of the American flag over the ages to the stage as an Elks representative discussed its history.

The flag’s legacy began in 1775 with a Pine Tar flag that was adopted for all colonial vessels and was carried by continental forces during the battle of Bunker Hill.

In 1776 President George Washington ordered the Grand Union flag hoisted above his base at Prospect Hill. It had 13 alternate red and white stripes and the British Union Jack in the upper left-hand corner.

In May 1776, Betsy Ross reported that she sewed the first American flag, and on June 14, 1777 the Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act.

Over the years, the American flag has evolved from 15 stripes and 15 stars, to 13 stripes and one star for each state.

It has been arranged with stars in six horizontal rows of eight each, a single point of each star to be upward, and later seven rows of seven stars each, staggered horizontally and vertically, then nine rows of stars staggered horizontally and eleven rows of stars staggered vertically.

It was the flag in 1795 that inspired Francis Scott Key to compose the lyrics to today’s national anthem.

Today the flag consists of 13 horizontal stripes, seven red alternating with six white. The stripes represent the original 13 colonies, and the stars represent the 50 states of the union, with Hawaii and Alaska the last additions. The red symbolizes hardiness and valor, white symbolizes purity and Innocence and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.

The evolution of the American flag marks the progress of the American government,” Mr. Boak said. “The flag represents the American nation as it was at birth and speaks of what it is today.”

“Upon its folds is written the story of America,” Army Lt. Col. (Ret.) James Hassett said, noting it represented life, liberty, happiness and peace.

He said that, as the years have gone by since the flag was born, every generation has had to “repurchase” it as their own.

“It has been purchased by each succeeding generation and must be won again and again and again,” he said.

With the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Lt. Col. Hassett said the flag came to represent comfort.

“Who will ever forget the sight of firefighters raising the flag over the remains of the World Trade Center,” as well as at the Pentagon and in a field in Pennsylvania where a hijacked plane crash landed, he said.

“No other symbol could have provided as much comfort,” he said.

Today’s battle is against terrorism, and the American flag is still flying strong, according to the lieutenant colonel.

“It is certainly as great a challenge as our flag has ever seen,” he said.

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