News: 'Flag Day honored'
Story by Staff Sgt. Stephen Crofoot
GAMBRILLS, Md., -- Sometimes, it is just as important to remember and celebrate the symbolic holidays as much as anything else. Today Boy Scouts and members of First Army Division East did just that.
When American Flags become unserviceable, Boy Scouts step in to ensure a proper retirement for the most visible symbol of America’s honor, courage, and strength.
On June 14, also known as Flag Day, Col. Tracy Smith, First Army Division East chief of staff, joined Boy Scouts from Troop 755, for a time-honored Flag Retirement Ceremony in Gambrills, Md.
“We have been presented with Flags of our Country which have been inspected and condemned as unserviceable. They have reached their present state in a proper service of tribute, memory and love,” said Bruce McPherson , VFW Post 5172 Trustee.
McPherson, who retired from the military as lieutenant colonel, also said it is important to understand why Flag Day is so important to the Army’s Birthday.
“A flag may be a flimsy bit of printed gauze, or a beautiful banner of finest silk. Its intrinsic value may be trifling or great; but its real value is beyond price, for it is a precious symbol of all that we and our comrades have worked for and lived for, and died for-a free nation of free men, true to the faith of the past, devoted to the ideals and practice of justice, freedom, and democracy,” McPherson said.
During the ceremony the Boy Scouts said the Pledge of Allegiance, and guest speakers talked about the history and significance of the Army’s Birthday and Flag Day; both are June 14.
“I began this day participating in an Army birthday ceremony, and I am ending it participating in a Flag Day ceremony. I have spent all day among people who are proud of our nation, who want to make it a better place, and who proudly wear our flag on their shoulders,” said Smith, guest speaker.
During the ceremony, Smith explained what the American Flag meant to him.
“When I joined the Army, I stood in front of the flag, and I raised my right hand, and the flag went from being a piece of cloth to being the symbol of my nation … the nation I was now charged with supporting and defending,” Smith said. “It became the symbol of freedom and liberty. It became a symbol of everything I hold dear. When I see the flag, I can’t help but stand taller, walk prouder and hold my head up knowing that I personally have supported and defended my nation and way of life.”
As the ceremony came to an end, the Boy Scouts prepared the flag for a proper retirement. They cut the blue field of stars from the red and white stripes and then cut the stripes apart. They handed the pieces to Smith and other guests to place in the fire. As each stripe was placed in the fire, those assembled rendered a salutes and showed respect with a moment of silence.
“Tear each of my 13 stripes and lay them on the fire, one at a time. As you do this, think about the 13 original colonies and the pioneers who carved a nation out of a wilderness. They risked everything to fight for the independence which we enjoy today,” said Michael Brown, senior patrol leader, Troop 755.
At the end of the ceremony, the Scouts handed out portions of the flags to members of the audience to participate in the retirement of the tattered flags. Once all pieces were burned, the Scouts raised a new flag, and led a prayer.
“This was a huge honor being here today. As I looked through the crowd, I saw many more people who have the same pride in the flag that represents our great country. I also saw the future of our world out there, and the future is extremely bright,” said Smith.
Inspired by decades of state and local celebrations, Flag Day - the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777 - was officially established by the Proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson, May 30, 1916. While Flag Day was celebrated in various communities for years after Wilson's proclamation, it was not until Aug. 3rd, 1949, that President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th of each year as National Flag Day.
First Army Division East, mobilizes, trains, validates and deploys Reserve Component units to support overseas military operations. Along with Reserve component units, the division’s trainer/mentors prepare and deploy sailors and airmen, along with selected members of the interagency and intergovernmental departments, to provide trained and ready forces across a full-spectrum of operations to regional combatant commanders worldwide.