The Sons of Morgantown American Legion, Post 537, honored veterans, hosting Veterans Appreciation Day on Flag Day, June 14.
Close to 200 veterans were treated to a free 'All American lunch' of hot dogs, hamburgers, French fries and individual apple pies with ice cream along with soda and cold beer on tap.
Ernie Moore, a Korean War vet and 50-year Legion member, brought along a group of eight veterans from Elmcroft Senior Living of Reading. Harry Heater and Leonard 'Sarge' De Long had served in three wars: World War II, The Korean War, and two tours in Vietnam. Some came on walkers, or in wheelchairs for this day of remembrance for those who have served their country.
'What makes Flag Day special from all other days? The American flag is a symbol of honor, loyalty, and love of country,' said Commander Roger Jacobs who served as a Marine. Four other Jacobs brothers are also members of the Morgantown American Legion: Donald (Army), Melvin (Marines), Barry (Army) and Scott (Army and Marines). The camaraderie was palpable among all the veterans who came out for the day.
According to The National Flag Day Foundation website, http://www.nationalflagday.com/, 'On June 14th, 1885, Bernard J. Cigrand, a 19-year-old teacher at Stony Hill School, placed a 10 inch, 38- star flag in a bottle on his desk then assigned essays on the flag and its significance. This observance commemorated Congresses adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777. This observance was also the beginning of Cigrand's long years of fervent and devoted effort to bring about national recognition and observance of Flag Day. The crowning achievement of his life came at age 50 when President Wilson, on May 30, 1916, issued a proclamation calling for a nation wide observance of Flag Day. Then in 1949, President Truman signed an Act Of Congress designating the 14th day of June every year as National Flag Day. On June 14th, 2004, the 108th U.S. Congress voted unanimously on H.R. 662 that Flag Day originated in Ozaukee County, Waubeka Wisconsin.'
Jacobs explained the tradition of retiring flags, 'You cannot throw flags away. No matter how tattered, torn or weathered it is the custom to turn those flags into an American Legion or VFW post to be properly retired by the Veterans.'
The ceremony conducted by Mark Greath, President of the Sons of the American Legion was held at 2 p.m. Saturday the 14th beside the Legion's pavilion.
Hands over hearts the crowd began with 'The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag', followed by a speech from Commander Roger Jacobs, (Read these words of men who have fought for this country and how they honor her Flag)
'It has been recommended our worn set of old colors be fittingly retired. As they have served our Post for many years and on a great variety of occasions we shall retire them with the respect they deserve. Comrades, we have presented there these Flags of our Country which have been inspected and judged as unserviceable. They have reached their present state in a proper service of tribute, memory and love. 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 and women, true to the faith of the past devoted to the ideals and practice of Justice, Freedom and Democracy. Let these faded Flags of our Country be retired and destroyed with respectful and honorable rites and their places be taken by bright new Flags of the same size and kind and let no grave of our soldier, sailor or airman dead be un-honored and unmarked.'
Greath proceeded with the retiring of the flags as 'Taps' was played by Michelle Williams. There was not a dry eye during the ceremony.
On this day of honor for country there were veterans talking about the state of Iraq and the news of the treatment of veterans. To many it is very emotional.
Jacobs said, 'This is absolutely shameful, absolutely a disgrace. We should have never pulled all our troops out. Lebanon and Coatesville Veteran Centers are doing their jobs but the news is troubling from across the nation.'
The solemnity of the day quickly turned into sharing stories, and a great time with everyone socializing. Linda Jacobs, Post Historian says, 'We are all one big family. Where everyone feels welcome. Everyone had a great time.'
A touching tribute was given to the Veterans from the Senior Living Center as they were leaving on their bus. All the members of the Legion lined up alongside their bus and saluted them goodbye as they returned the salutes.
Morgantown American Legion, Post 537 is located at 4499 N. Twin Valley Road, Morgantown. New members are always welcome. Call 610-286-0950 or find them on facebook American Legion Post 537.