So our first Honor Our Flag Days event is in the record books.
And to say it was an amazing experience really doesn't do it justice. But I'll hit the highlights here......
It started with a Flag Exchange
We encouraged everyone in our community to bring unserviceable flags to our office. In exchange, they got a brand new 3 x 5 nylon embroidered flag. The response to this was overwhelming to say the least! We collected over 200 flags in various states of disrepair and gave out close to 60 new flags. Fun facts- We ordered the flags from American Legion Flag & Emblem, so a portion of the proceeds support programs that provide help for America's children, veterans, and military families. And of course, the flags are 100% American made.
We exchanged flags over 4 days and were delighted to welcome people into our office. We spoke with many people, several of them veterans, and the stories we heard were very touching. Several brought tears to my eyes. Hearing about time in combat, being away from family and many other experiences associated with their time in the service was truly a highlight, and quite honestly, something I will remember for years to come. We shook hands, exchanged hugs and shared fellowship. It was very memorable.
It ended with the Unserviceable Flag Ceremony
The evening of Flag Day was very special. We blocked off a portion of the street in front of our office and hosted the Unserviceable Flag Ceremony. Opening remarks about the history of the flag and Flag Day were offered by Pastor Mike Valentine from First Christian Church. I bet all in attendance learned at least one new fact from his presentation. Next the American Legion Post 173 Color Guard performed the Unserviceable Flag Ceremony. This ceremony is the proper way to dispose of flags that are no longer fit to be flown or displayed. Many in attendance had never seen the ceremony, and it is quite the experience. Very detailed and structured with steps for presenting the unserviceable flags, acceptance of flags for retirement and the actual burning of the flags at the conclusion. It's very awe-inspiring to say the least. Hard to explain here- I guess you had to be there!
Dave Leapley of the Springfield area concluded the ceremony with a playing of "To the Colors." The sound reverberating off the downtown buildings was extraordinary and brought goosebumps to many.
You can watch a slideshow of the people who came to our office to exchange flags, as well as additional photos and live video snippets of the Unserviceable Flag Ceremony on our YouTube channel.
Planning for next year
The feedback received so far has been overwhelmingly positive. So many people were excited to have a place to take their flags to be properly disposed of. Still others were delighted to get a brand new flag to be proudly flown. Those that made it to the ceremony really enjoyed learning new information about the flag and Flag Day and seeing the ceremony itself. It was the first time for many and again, something to witness at least once. We've already decided to offer the flag exchange next year, possibly over the course of an entire week so as many people as possible can participate. Additional ideas are being discussed- if you have any suggestions, post a comment or send an email to email@example.com. For event details, you can Like Facebook page to get notifications or sign up for our monthly newsletter (we put lots of announcements in our newsletter).
None of this would have been possible without the support of so many people and organizations. We would like to thank:
I got so much more from this than I ever expected- an appreciation for our veterans, a renewed appreciation for our country and a chance to celebrate all that is good in the world. I have hope in our community and in our future. Because without hope, we don't have much do now?
Long may our flag freely wave.