Large crowd turns out for Masons’ flag-retirement ceremony Saturday
America flags, some folded neatly in the familiar triangle, some rumpled and faded, lay stacked on a long table in front of Sampson Masonic Lodge in Theodosia Saturday. The old and battered flags “have flown over homes, churches, schools, businesses and government buildings,” said ceremony emcee Len Modlinski, a member of Sampson Lodge. “They’ve served in parades, escorted funeral processions and honored the final resting places of our deceased veterans. They have served our nation well and are now faded and worn to a condition where they are no longer serviceable.”
This was the fourth consecutive year the Theodosia Masons have held a American Flag Retirement Ceremony in the days leading up to Independence Day. Modlinski said the ceremony, which focuses on respect for the flag, is meant to be “a meaningful and memorable one – especially for the young people here today.” Modlinski told the Times later that 94 people attended the event on a scorching-hot afternoon.
Following the presentation and posting of colors by the Air Force Jr. ROTC from Branson High School, members of Girl Scout Troop 71227 from Gainesville led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. Masonic Lodge member Elmer Roberson sang the National Anthem.
Missouri Sen. Mike Cunningham, the keynote speaker at the ceremony, said, “The American flag has been a symbol of the strength and resiliency of our nation since 1777. We gather here for one reason, and one reason only – because we are free.
“Free to live, learn, laugh, work and play. Free to come and go as we please without fear of retribution. Free to choose our own destiny.
“Of course this freedom does not come without sacrifice. The lifestyle we hold dear would not be possible if not for the hopes and dreams of those who founded this great country, and those who fight to maintain its values.
“Our country’s history makes clear the debt we owe to those who fight for our freedom. Every lost service man or woman leaves behind grieving brothers and sisters, daughters and sons, mothers, fathers and friends. It is our duty to share their grief and uphold the loved ones of those who gave their lives for the freedom of those left behind.”
Following Cunningham’s remarks, the U.S. Army Color Guard from the 312th Army Band in Lawrence, Kansas, retired the old flag flying overhead and raised a new one to take its place.
Modlinski invited those attending to dedicate an old flag before it was placed in the fire. Among the touching dedications were those by several veterans in memory of service men and women who lost their lives in service to America, including Ozark County soldiers Jerry Corp, son of Irene Corp of Tecumseh, who died in Vietnam, and Matthew J. England, son of Pamela Hengen of Gainesville, who was killed in Afghanistan.
As the colors were retired at the end of the ceremony, Elmer Roberson’s voice poured out, “God Bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her through the night with the light from above...”