Bristol Elks celebrate the Stars and Stripes
by Cate Murway

“God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.”

The Bristol Elks #970 Flag Day Ceremony held last Sunday in Lions Park has continued to be an annual observance on the second Sunday of June since 1908.
This distinctively American organization is dedicated to patriotic service and proudly seeks to promote the proper knowledge of, and respect for, the American Flag as an ensign of freedom, liberty and opportunity. The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks performs this duty in many ways but the most effective of its prescribed activities is with its Flag Day Service. Each Elks Lodge is required to conduct this ritual annually as a public ceremonial beginning to "National Flag Week. The anniversary of the birth of our Nation’s beloved cloth, emblematic of the crowning virtue of Charity and Justice and the symbol of Brotherly Love and Fidelity is celebrated.

President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation officially establishing June 14 as Flag Day in 1916. President Harry S. Truman, who was himself an Elk, signed Public Law 203 in August 1949 and National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress.

All those in attendance in Lions Park, who came out to honor our flag, respectfully listened to the history of Old Glory, its real meaning and majesty, as Trustee Edward Heacock began the ceremonies, including the singing of the National Anthem, and recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Up and down our streets and high upon the century old iconic Grundy Commons clock tower, the flags of red, white, and blue flapped in the warm, almost-summer air.

Red symbolizes hardiness and valor; white symbolizes purity and innocence; and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.

Elks Chaplain, Kristie Gaynor expressed the hope that “this service brings to each of us a sense of loyalty to our country and enables us to be better patriots, truer citizens and more loyal Americans.”
Exalted Ruler Cindy Ann Kempff, PER asked that we recall the achievements attained beneath the folds on the anniversary of our flag’s birth. Esteemed Leading Knight, Megan E. McAleer confirmed that the fraternal aim of B.P.O.E. is to inculcate the principles of Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity.

Many people long ago stood and fought for a future they would never be part of, they fought for a freedom that they would never themselves enjoy.  They fought and died for peace.  Freedom does not come without responsibility and our freedom did not come for a small price.  People lost their homes and their families and gave their very lives to make way for a future they could only imagine.

From the sands of Iwo Jima in World War II to the sands of Fallujah, Iraq, the American colors have seen plenty of action in its days. 

PA State Senator, Robert M. “Tommy” Tomlinson [R-6] felt privileged to be asked to speak. He sincerely acknowledged all the hard work put into creating and then rehearsing for the ceremony.
“Flag Day truly represents what this country is about. It commemorates those who fought for this country, fought for this flag. We have truly been blessed being in the greatest country in the history of the world, not just the greatest country in the world.”

The Mayor, Sergeant Robert A. Lebo, has served the community and lived a patchwork of various experiences and careers, including one as a soldier, serving in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970. He earned the Good Conduct medal for his 2 ½ years of service and achievements during his “expedition” into Southeast Asia in the 199th Infantry Brigade.
Mayor Bob Lebo, short on show and long on substance, said it best.  “I’m honored to be an American. I’m short and sweet and to the point.”

People rose from their lawn chairs. Gentlemen removed their hats with their right hand and held it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart as the flag was hoisted.
Our flag waves as the banner of liberty, freedom and enlightenment.
It always gives me chills. It still does.

Are we proud to be Americans? We should be humbled to be Americans.
If we do not take care of ourselves, we silently give permission to someone else to make decisions for us. 

Make it a quest to buy American flags made by Americans in the USA.
The flag symbolizes the blood, sweat, and tears of American men and women who brought this country into existence, not our indebtedness to China and the foreboding death of the American manufacturing sector. We are the land of the free, BECAUSE of the brave!

“From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.”

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