Friday marked Flag Day 2013 and four area Elks Lodges gathered with three local Boy Scout troops Thursday evening in honor of the occasion.
For the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Flag Day is not simply a day to fly the flag; lodges are required to observe the occasion with a special ceremony and that's what members of Herkimer Lodge No. 1439, Little Falls Lodge No. 42, Ilion Lodge No. 1444 and Canajoharie-Fort Plain Lodge No. 2621 did Thursday at Herkimer High School.
The ceremony was scheduled to be conducted in Myers Park in Herkimer, but was moved to the high school due to inclement weather.
The ceremony included “I am your Flag” presented by Charles Sullivan, of Herkimer Lodge No. 1439, reminding listeners of the proper way to salute the flag. Jack Korce, exalted ruler of Little Falls Elks Lodge No. 42, presented a history of the flag with the help of Boy Scouts from Herkimer Troop No. 29, Ilion Troop No. 9 and Little Falls Troop No. 31, who carried examples of the various flags that have been used over the years to the front of the auditorium as Korce read a description of each one. Among the flags displayed were the Grand Union flag, the early stars and stripes, the 15 stars and stripes, the Pine Tree flag and the “Don't Tread on Me” flag as well as the present American flag.
“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance,” Michele Whiteman, exalted ruler of Canajoharie-Fort Plain Lodge No. 2621, reminded listeners.
Guest speaker Charles Noonan, past state president of the New York State Elks Association, told the audience that June 14 marks the birthday of the flag. That's the date in 1777 when the Continental Congress adopted the flag of the United States. In 1907, the BPOE Grand Lodge designated June 14 as Flag Day. The Grand Lodge of the Order adopted mandatory observance of the occasion by every lodge in 1911. The Elks prompted President Woodrow Wilson to issue a Flag Day proclamation in 1916. In 1949, then-President Harry Truman signed Public Law 203 establishing June 14 as Flag Day.
Noonan also reviewed the history of the Pledge of Allegiance. Written by Francis Bellamy, he noted, the original pledge was only 23 words, stating, “I pledge allegiance to my flag.” In 1923 and 1924 the words “of the United States” and “of America” were added. In 1954, the words “under God” were added to the pledge.
Bellamy is buried in Rome, said Noonan and in 2009, the Rome Elks Lodge donated some $50,000 to improve and landscape the gravesite.
“I'm proud to be an Elk and proud to be an American,” said Noonan.
Lou Christie, of the Herkimer Elks Lodge, led the group in the singing of “God Bless America.”
Dan Trzepacz and Tom Molinaro of Boy Scout Troop No. 31, Little Falls, played Taps to close the ceremony.