Arbutus shows its true colors during morning flag ceremony


Nearly lost amid the pounding drums and brass instruments of marching bands throughout Baltimore County on July 4 was a short period of quiet reflection Friday morning in the county's southwest corner.

Dewey Lowman Post 109 of the American Legion hosted its annual flag ceremony on the Fourth that featured short speeches, several songs and a silent reverence so deep it was easy to hear the rustling and snap of American flags.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, whose day included appearances in four different Fourth of July parades around the county, said he was not aware of any other community in the county that hosted a similar ceremony on the holiday to remember the service and sacrifice of veterans.

With bagpipe music by post member Phil Penne in the background, the ceremony at the flagpole in downtown Arbutus began at 10:30 a.m.

After an introduction by Craig Miller, second vice-commander of the post, there was a Pledge of Allegiance, an opening prayer by the post chaplain, a short speech by 1st District Councilman Tom Quirk speaking for himself, state Sen. Ed Kasemeyer and Del. Steven DeBoy, and closing speech by Arbutus Fourth of July Parade organizer George Kendrick.

"This is the greatest place in the world and if you don't believe it, just ask me," Kendrick said.

From the lectern, Kendrick looked down at the plaque honoring the service of veterans from Arbutus and noted that he was "friends with four or five of these guys who never came back."

There were some patriotic songs sung by Cass Shreiner and then it was over.

The digital clock on the lawyer's office across the street read 10:42 when the 27 Flags Unit of the American Legion Post spun on its collective heel and began its slow march down Oregon Avenue.

As the 14 members of the unit began their exit, a dozen members of the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department remained at attention at the intersection of Oregon Avenue and Sulphur Spring Road, forming a human roadblock at the intersection.

It had been a long day for the volunteers, said Capt. Doug Simpkins of the department. The holiday began with providing EMS service for the annual Arbutus Firecracker 5k earlier that morning, he said, and it continued with coverage of the town's Soap Box Derby before volunteers arrived at the flag ceremony.

"Then we'll be on duty for the fireworks (that evening at nearby Catonsville High), just in case," Simpkins said.

That volunteers sacrifice their holiday to be on duty does not surprise Simpkins, a 44-year veteran of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department who estimated he has served for at least 35 Fourth of July events and other holiday services.

He said he had 15-18 volunteers prepared to be on duty for the holiday on Friday.

"They want to be here," he said. "They want to be part of the community. They want to be part of it. These people are dedicated."

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