Keep Earning It…. Freedom isn’t Free
by Cate Murway

“test everything; hold fast what is good…”

There was a taste of good old-fashioned “love of country” at the Flag Day ceremonies last Saturday, hosted by the Bristol Elks Lodge #970 in Bristol Lions Park. 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.
This year’s Flag Day was extra special because 2014 is also the 200th anniversary year of The Star-Spangled Banner, our national anthem written by Francis Scott Key, a Maryland attorney. The flag inspired him during the Battle of Baltimore in 1814 at Fort McHenry to pen the song that would become our national anthem in the early 1930’s. While the men at the fort played Yankee Doodle, Key’s emotions took flight and the phrases such as “O say can you see” and “by the dawn’s early light” pulsed through his heart and pen. By the time he returned to Baltimore two days later, he’d written lyrics for a poem, The Star-Spangled Banner with the original title being "Defense of Fort McHenry."
Saluting the flag is a way to celebrate and honor the United States of America, a ritual act of reverence respecting the history and heritage that the American flag represents.

There is power in those broad stripes and bright stars.

Exalted Ruler Megan E. Hems asked that we recall the achievements attained beneath the folds on the anniversary of our flag’s birth, confirming that the fraternal aim of B.P.O.E. is to inculcate the principles of Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity.

PA State Senator, Robert M. “Tommy” Tomlinson [R-6] reiterated that he felt privileged to be asked to speak. He sincerely recognized and acknowledged all the hard work put into creating and then rehearsing for the ceremony. “Soldiers didn’t go to conquer; they went to defend our freedoms. Pass the message on.”
Flag Day truly represents what this country is about. It commemorates those who fought for this country and 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.
“First of all, Bristol is one of the most beautiful spots in Bucks County right here along the river.  Washington and the other founding fathers on their way from Trenton to New York literally stopped here.  It was the center of the world while the Revolution was going on. Bristol is important for its history and tradition and values.”
District Justice, Frank Perenteau confirmed and added, “The freedoms we enjoy were secured by our veterans. I salute all of them.”

“I’d thank my lucky stars to be living here today,
‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can’t take that away.”

The ceremony continued as boats roared down the Delaware. Freedom enjoyed!

Boy Scout Michael Reilly of Pack #212 carried the flag. “We thank the people who served our country.”
Veterans, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Spc. 4 Peter Feehan, John Billington VFW #6495, who served in North Thailand in 1968 and 1969 during the Vietnam War, and 2nd Airborne Ranger Fred  Johnson who served in Vietnam from 1958-61, as well as Sgt. Chuck Bastian, Esteemed Loyal Knight, a Vietnam veteran attended the ceremonies.

Air Force veteran Richard J. Viggiano, Sr. served in the security police from 2001-2003 in Andrews Air Force Base and in Saudi Arabia, retiring as Master Sergeant.  He is also a member of Billington VFW #6495 on Haines Road. His father, Army PFC. James Viggiano served in WWII.

Navy veteran First Class Petty Officer Bill McCool was stationed in Guantanamo Bay and in France, serving from 1948-1956.

Brenda Johnson, newly elected President of the Billington Ladies Auxiliary, joined under her father, WWII Navy veteran, Chief Petty Officer Stanley Johnson’s eligibility.
Brenda shared, “Richard Viggiano was one of the ones who received packages that we sent overseas. He was the only one who came back personally to thank us.”

WWII veteran, WT2c Walter Dowd enlisted in 1944 when he was just 17years old and he went straight to the South Pacific. He served for two additional years in Guantanamo Bay, Nova Scotia and in Jamaica.
“When we first went over, we were going over to kick their ___ and to come back! The ones that are in today, they’re the ones you should really be thanking.”

The ceremony was made complete with the attendance of VFW Post 6495, the Billington Ladies Auxiliary, the Robert W. Bracken Post, No. 382, and the Boy Scouts.

"When the warrior returns, from the battle afar, To the home and the country [s]he nobly defended..."
                                                                          [from patriotic ditty called "Adams and Liberty"] 

There is nobility and courage in actions to protect and preserve values such as truth, peace, freedom and knowledge, values for which the veterans fought and held dear. The sacrifice and honor of our warriors and their families should never be forgotten.

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Bristol Elks Americanism Essay Contest- this contest is geared towards students in 5th through 8th grades to promote patriotism among young people.

“What Does Veterans Day Mean To Me?” Award winners with Exalted Ruler Megan E. Hems

1st place- Mara McKeon, “Veterans Day is a day to salute and thank our veterans. My great grandfather, Nelson Bonaventura was a veteran.”

Andrew Johnson, “My Uncle David was in the service and my grandfather, Harmon Johnson was in WWII. Freedom of speech is the best, being able to say your opinion.”

Kaitlyn McCullough, “My brother, Bobby is a Marine veteran. He fought for our country.”