BIG RUN — Acknowledging what has been a nationally recognized holiday since 1958, the VFW Post 9044, VFW District 19 of Pennsylvania and Ladies Auxiliary presented a Loyalty Day program Sunday in the Big Run War Memorial.
"Many of our holidays celebrate the birthdays of famous people or other historical events in the development of our country, but the one we celebrate today is different from all the rest," VFW Post 9044 Senior Vice- Commander Jim Soliday said. "Today is a holiday that celebrates an idea — the idea was democracy."
Soliday discussed the history of democracy in America, and how that idea manifested itself as the Declaration of Independence.
"It was a document unlike any other ever written," Soliday said. "It proclaimed that all of us are born with certain unalienable rights, which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution of 1787 formed the foundation for a democratic government that has lasted more nearly 250 years, Soliday said.
The VFW began observing Loyalty Day in the early 1930's in response to "communist agitators" in America, he said.
"They attacked our country and our way of life," Soliday said, adding the VFW held parades to counter the "agitors'" demonstrations. The day was then recognized by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1958.
"Today, with the decline of communism, Americans still observe Loyalty Day as a way to reaffirm their loyalty to their country, allegiance to its flag and reverence to our supreme being," Soliday said.
Big Run Mayor Joe Buterbaugh announced a proclamation naming May 1 as Loyalty Day in Big Run.
Emphasized in the proclamation and in the Loyalty Day program was the concept of citizenship.
Guest speaker Robert Bickerstaff addressed that concept in his speech.
Bickerstaff discussed lessons from his father, and how they endowed him with a sense of community in the town of Brookville, where he would serve as a borough council member and hold positions in the ministerium.
Bickerstaff said his father urged him to "establish himself in the community," and the lesson lasted.
"Although my father did not call it loyalty, that is what he was trying to teach me," Bickerstaff said. "I am here tonight to tell you that lesson stuck like glue my entire life."
A religious man, Bickerstaff also said citizenship and loyalty could be explained through scripture. He referenced the Biblical story of Jesus explaining why taxes should be paid to Caesar with the famous, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s," line.
"Christ used this occasion to teach the truth about citizenship and loyalty," Bickerstaff said. "A truth which is both astounding and earth-shaking.
"Christ astounded the world by declaring that there is an earthly or physical citizenship — to which some things need to be given. There is also a spiritual, heavenly citizenship to which some other things need to be given."
Regarding the earthly citizenship, Bickerstaff said that entailed, "Service to our country, and all that goes with that."