Fifteen flags were retired during the Flag Day Celebration in the Memorial Garden at Oakhurst Lutheran Church on Flag Day, June 14. These faded and tattered flags had been displayed at various locations and were beyond repair. Protocol designates that such flags should be disposed of in a dignified manner such as burning.
"We live in the greatest nation in the world, and as the greatest, grandest nation in the world, we have the greatest symbol for our country, the Grand Old Flag, said Pastor David Sebastian. "That symbol is what we are here to celebrate and honor this evening."
This was the 65th anniversary of Flag Day that Americans celebrate recognizing the adoption of the first national flag also known as 'Stars and Stripes,' 'Old Glory,' or 'The Star Spangled Banner.'
Small American flags were provided by the Oakhurst Sierra Lions club and presented to Flag Day participants by club members Jan and Don Kieffer.
Following a tri-tip sandwich dinner that was a fundraiser for Caring Vets, about 80 people joined in singing a selection of patriotic songs. Each song was preceded by a short history of its authorship.
"America's unofficial national anthem was composed by an immigrant who left his home in Siberia for America when he was only five years old," explained Sebastian. "The original version of ''God Bless America' was written by Irving Berlin (1888-1989) during the summer of 1918 at Camp Upton, in Yaphank, Long Island, for his Ziegfeld-style revue, 'Yip, Yip, Yaphank.' 'Make her victorious on land and foam, God Bless America . . .' ran the original lyric. However, Berlin decided that the solemn tone of 'God Bless America' was somewhat out of keeping with the more comedic elements of the show and the song was laid aside."
In the fall of 1938, as war was again threatening Europe, Berlin decided to write a 'peace' song. He recalled his 'God Bless America' from 20 years earlier and made some alterations to reflect the different state of the world. Singer Kate Smith introduced the revised 'God Bless America' during her radio broadcast on Armistice Day, 1938.
The song was an immediate sensation and the sheet music was in great demand. Berlin soon established the God Bless America Fund, dedicating the royalties to the Boy and Girl Scouts of America.
Jerry Bosworth, Colonel (Ret.) United States Marine Corps, delivered the keynote address focusing on the role of the American flag as it is used in the burial services of those who have served the United States in the various military branches.
"Any honorably discharged veteran is entitled to Military Funeral Honors which consist of, at a minimum, the folding and presentation of the flag to the next of kin and the sounding of taps ... where available a rifle salute is also provided," Col. Bosworth said.
"As many of you know, the Marine Corps League Griswold Mountain Detachment #1121 has a Military Funeral Honors Detail," Bosworth said. "We support active duty uniformed personnel of all the branches of service by providing the rifle detail, a chaplain and the sounding of taps. We also provide the full Honors when active duty personnel are not available."
Bosworth explained that the custom of the folding and presentation of the flag to the next of kin began during the Napoleonic Wars (1796-1815). The dead carried from the field of battle on a caisson were covered with flags.
When the U.S. Flag, which is 5-feet by 9-feet-6-inches, covers the casket, it is placed so the union blue field is at the head and over the left shoulder. It is not placed in the grave and is not allowed to touch the ground.
"Usually, after the graveside service, Military Funeral Honors are rendered. After three rifle volleys and 'Taps,' the flag is removed from the casket, folded and presented to the next of kin in appreciation of a grateful Nation," Bosworth said.