BUCKHANNON — All members, veterans and guests were invited to attend the Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks (BPOE) Lodge 1736 Flag Day ceremony that was held on Friday, June 21.
The BP0E is the first and only fraternal organization in the United States to require a formal observance of the nation’s Flag Day. In July of 1908, the Grand Lodge of Dallas, Texas, provided that for the annual nationwide observance of Flag Day on the 14th of June in each year, each Local Lodge must mandatorily hold a Flag Day ceremony.
Local VFW Post 3663 and American Legion Post 7 assisted Elks Lodge officers by displaying flags for the ceremony, representing different periods in the nation’s history.
Lodge Secretary Scott Wilson greeted attendees saying, “Members and Guests, the purpose of this service is to honor our country’s Flag, to celebrate the anniversary of its birth, and to recall the achievements attained beneath its folds.” He continued, “It is quite appropriate that such a service should be held by the Order of Elks, an organization that is distinctively American, intensely patriotic and without counterpart.” Wilson went on to say, “The American Flag signifies Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love, and Fidelity and that these virtues are inherent in the belief system of the BPOE.”
Lodge member Charles Washington gave invocations over the ceremony proceedings stating, “Almighty God, in this hour of patriotic observance of the birthday of the American Flag, we ask You to bless our flag, and the people of these United States.” He continued, “For all that our flag represents both at home and abroad, we thank Thee, and that through all our history as a nation, it has been an ensign of freedom, liberty and opportunity.” Washington’s invocation concluded with, “And through the years to come, may this flag wave as the banner of liberty, freedom and enlightenment, and may this service bring to each of us a sense of loyalty to our country and enable us to be better patriots, truer citizens, and more loyal Americans, to Thy glory and to the honor of this great nation, Amen.”
The Flag Day ceremony was preceded with a brief history of the evolution of the American Flag. The attending veterans displayed the eight major flags flown during the nation’s history. The Pine Tree Flag, which was adopted for all colonial vessels, was the banner carried by the Continental forces in the Battle of Bunker Hill. From 1776 to 1777, the Southern colonies displayed the Snake Flag.
In the latter part of 1775, the Continental Congress appointed a committee to consider adopting a single Flag to be used in all thirteen colonies. This Flag, called “The Continental Colors” and “The Grand Union,” was never carried in the field, but it was used by the Navy. In May or June of 1776, a committee consisting of George Washington, Robert Morris and George Ross commissioned Betsy Ross, a Philadelphia Quakeress, to make a Flag from a rough design they left with her. It is said that she suggested that the stars should have five points, rather than six. The original thirteen Stars and Stripes represented the original thirteen colonies.
In 1795, two additional Stars and Stripes were added to represent admission to the Union of Vermont and Kentucky. The War of 1812 was fought under this banner of fifteen Stars and Stripes. It was the sight of it flying over Fort McHenry, on September 14, 1814, that inspired Francis Scott Key to write our national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner.”
On April 14, 1818, Congress adopted a resolution that on and after July 4, 1818, the number of stripes should be thirteen and that the blue field should carry one star for each of the 20 states in the union and that a new star should be added for each state thereafter admitted. Since 1818, there has been no change in the flag design, except that 28 new stars were added before July 4, 1912. This Flag of 48 stars flew over the nation for 47 years until just before the Vietnam War.
On July 4, 1959, a star was added for Alaska, and a year later, Hawaii added a fiftieth star. Our present flag consists of 50 stars and 13 stripes.
Donna Matthews, Lodge Esquire, led the next part of the ceremony stating, “The flag is formally honored by the Pledge of Allegiance.” She continued, “This Pledge was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy and published in “The Youth’s Companion” as part of a patriotic campaign of that magazine.” Matthews concluded, “The Pledge did not become part of the Flag Code until 1942, and in 1954, the phrase ‘Under God’ was added.”
“Let us all stand and pledge ourselves never to forget the principles represented by this flag,” Wilson declared. He then closed the ceremony with these comments, “In conclusion of this observance of Flag Day, let us rededicate ourselves to the flag of the United States of America and may the principles of Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity ever increase in each of us.”