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Westminster Elks Lodge 2277 honors Flag Day early

More than 40 people came together to pay tribute and recite the Pledge of Allegiance during Westminster Elks Lodge 2277's Flag Day ceremony Sunday afternoon in Westminster.

"It's the only holiday where we truly honor our flag," said Elks Lodge Treasurer Jay Nave.

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According to Nave, the Grand Lodge of the Elks in Dallas mandated that all Elks lodges host a Flag Day service each year in July 1908. The Westminster lodge opted to hold its ceremony on the Sunday before to encourage more people to attend.

"It's to honor the American flag and the people that have served under it. The Elks are a very patriotic organization, and we feel very strongly about the American flag," Nave said.

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After remarks by the lodge's exalted ruler, Tim Eaton, Century High School's Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps presented flags of different time periods as lodge member Ellie Nave read the flag's history. Nave began with the 1775 Liberty Tree flag, which was flown by American ships in New England waters at the start of the Revolutionary War. She spoke of the 1777 flag designed by Betsy Ross during the Revolutionary War, and the 1814 flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key's "Star-Spangled Banner."

She remarked that since 1818 the flag's design has included 13 stripes and has only been changed to add stars representing America's 50 states.

"The carrying of banners is a custom of all people … these flags represent the evolution of America," Nave read.

County Sheriff Jim DeWees was this year's keynote speaker.

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"The flag is a symbol of respect. … Many have made the ultimate sacrifice for this country and our flag," he said.

DeWees thanked the veterans in attendance for their service.

He also reminded the crowd that not all veterans were treated with fanfare when they returned home.

DeWees recounted how his father was treated disrespectfully when he returned from Vietnam. At the airport, a protester spit in his father's face, but his father was the one arrested for assault for his response to the incident. DeWees said his mother used his father's final military check to bail him out of jail.

"Can you imagine a time on our nation's history when our soldiers would be treated that way? ... The price of freedom is not cheap. ... We as a nation have a responsibility to remember their sacrifice and make sure no military soldier is treated the way my father was treated," DeWees said.

Eaton, of Manchester, served in the Navy for 20 years and was grateful for DeWees' speech.

"Being a veteran myself, that was one of the best speeches I've ever heard. It reminded people of our brothers and sisters that paid the ultimate price for freedom," Eaton said. "This is a great country. The flag represents the liberty, freedom and rights of humanity that we live for."

Elks Lodge member Ella Washington, of Eldersburg, said she attended the ceremony to honor those in the military and to remember their sacrifices.

"I wouldn't miss this ceremony for anything," Washington said. " I enjoyed hearing about how the flag came to be and the speaker brought a lot to the service. It was interesting to hear his story."

Bill and Lynne Provost, of Eldersburg, attended the ceremony for the first time.

"Our son is part of Century's JROTC," Lynne said. "It was a very nice ceremony. Learning some history about the flag was interesting."

Denise Miller, of Finksburg, said the ceremony was extremely informative and interesting.

"I learned a lot of things I didn't know," she said.

Elks Lodge member Bob George, of Westminster, also enjoyed the ceremony.

"As a member of the lodge, I have a great respect for the flag," George said.

The Elks current lecturing knight, Clifton Hale, of Finksburg, said the ceremony meant a lot to him.

"At this time in society, we really need to stand behind the flag," Hale said. "As a country, I think we've gotten a little lax. We're the nation that's supposed to set examples, not follow."

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twitter.com/MichelElben

If you go

Boy Scout Troop #393 invites the public to bring their old U.S. American Flags for proper and respectful retirement at their Flag Day ceremony.

When: 6 p.m., Tuesday, June 14

Where: Carroll County Farm Museum, 500 S. Center St., Westminster

Cost: Free

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