BRISTOL BOROUGH >> American flags waved in the breeze as the leaders of Elks Lodge 970 gathered on the Wharf to lead its annual Flag Day celebration, a tradition in town since 1909.
Exalted Ruler Joe Galioto presided at the event, which included an invocation, the singing of the national anthem, recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, poems, salutes and a presentation of the story behind each officially commissioned U.S. flag from the Pine Tree to today’s 50 star banner.
Flag Day, the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of June 14, 1777, was officially established by the Proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson on May 30, 1916. While it was celebrated for years after Wilson’s proclamation, it was not until August 3, 1949, that President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14 of each year as National Flag Day.
The American flag, dubbed “Old Glory,” “The Stars and Stripes,” “The Star Spangled Banner” or simply the “Red, White and Blue,” has come to symbolize everything the nation has stood for the past 242 years.
The Bristol Elks No. 970 Flag Day Ceremony has been an annual observance on the second Sunday of June since 1908. Billington VFW Post 6495, Bracken American Legion Post 382, and the Bracken Cadets Alumni Drum and Bugle Corp participated in the service. Boy Scout Troop No. 212 and Cub Scout Pack No. 212 led a parade of flags representing the progression of the government of the American people. The flag symbolizes the very blood, sweat, and tears of American men and women who brought the country into existence.
“Flag Day is a day for all Americans to celebrate and show their mutual respect for the flag,” said Bristol Borough Mayor Joe Saxton, addressing the gathering. “Our flag is representative of our independence and our unity as a nation - one nation, under God, indivisible. Our flag has a proud and glorious history. It even stands proudly on the surface of the moon. As Americans we have a right to be proud of our culture, our nation and our flag. So raise the flag today and every day with pride.”
The mayor continued, “President John F. Kennedy said, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’ I can tell you that by respecting the flag is one way we can all answer that question. With that in mind I’d like to thank all the citizens who have gone before us and are currently defending our flag throughout the world today.”
The Honorable Frank W. Peranteau, a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War and a 45 year public servant, has missed just one ceremony since 1992.
“The flag is very dear to me,” he told the gathering. “The flag to me is very important. It’s emblematic of the sacrifice that millions and millions of Americans have given throughout the years starting with the Revolutionary War.
“I’ve been in law enforcement and a judge for the better part of 42 years now and I fight for social justice all the time,” he said. “But I never mix social justice with my love for the flag. If social justice needs to be changed I’d be glad to sit with anybody any day of the week to change it.
“But I think some people mistakenly chose as their emblem of social justice to disregard the sacrifices of millions and millions of people,” he said. “While I applaud them for their efforts to change social justice I do not applaud them for using our flag, which is emblematic of the sacrifices made by many, many people over the years,” said the judge.
The flag, he said, is sacred. “It’s sacred to me. It’s sacred to everyone here serving today in this ceremony ... The symbol of the flag is to love your fellow man. Somewhere along the line a segment of people have lost that thought and lost that way of thinking and the lack of respect overall in society today is the reason why we have the problems we have.”
He closed his remarks with a challenge.
“I challenge each and everyone of us to work toward making this nation a better place so we can get back to the basics and start honoring the flag for what it was meant to be,” he said.
Bristol Borough Police Chief Steven Henry, in his remarks to the group, said when a member of the Armed Services or the emergency services dies their casket is often draped in the American flag.
“It’s probably the greatest compliment we can ever receive,” said Henry. “When the flag is folded and presented to the family the only thing that is exposed is the blue and the white. The red is not exposed to hide the blood shed that we have sacrificed over the years.”
When the flag is folded there are 13 folds, each one carrying a special meeting - the first representing life, the second a belief in eternal life, the third honoring veterans and the sacrifices they made, said Henry, who went on to share each fold’s meaning.
“Our country is at a time where we probably have never had so much internal divide and division among us,” said Henry, the father of three children - one of them serving abroad an U.S. Destroyer. “My hope is that the thread that holds the flag together can be strengthened to keep our country together and keeps us all safe.”