BIG RUN — Those who attended the Big Run VFW Post 9044 Flag Day program Tuesday learned that patriotism has no age requirement.
Speaker James F. Whited, a retired decorated police officer who served as a police services officer at the University Park campus of Penn State University, as well as the chief of police for Hastings Borough Police Department and as a former Spangler Borough Police Department officer, from where he retired for a total of 35 years, said indeed, patriotism has no age requirement, but sometimes, it takes a child to remind people how special their country and flag are.
Whited — presently an associate lay preacher serving various churches as needed in the Kiskiminetas Presbytery — talked about America’s flag and a boy from California, Cody Alicea, a 14-year-old middle school student in Denair, Calif., who last year during the week of Veterans’ Day, made national news when an official at his school ordered him to remove a U.S. flag from his bicycle.
Incredibly, the school had banned national flags after tensions arose between flag-waving Cinco De Mayo celebrants and spectators bearing the stars and stripes, Whited said. Thus, Cody was asked to remove the flag “for his own safety.”
Whited said this didn’t sit well with Cody, who comes from a family with a proud tradition of military service.
People from across the country rallied around Cody’s cause, and it wasn’t long before the American Legion Riders and other patriots were escorting the boy to school surrounded by hundreds of flags. Whited noted, however, that the school realized the error of its policy, retracted the ban and quickly issued an apology.
“This was a case of a student educating his educators,” he said. “Adults who come up with such misguided policies are usually not trying to be unpatriotic. They just need a reminder about the exceptional nature of this country and its flag.”
And that’s why Flag Day is so important, Whited said.
In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation officially establishing June 14 at Flag Day. Although it is not a federal holiday, it is observed in many communities across the nation, Whited said.
Flag Day isn’t simply about honoring a particular design on a cloth, he said. It is more about taking time to reflect on the freedoms and the principles for which the flag stands.
Whited said many Americans were offended when a misguided pastor desecrated a Koran.
“Americans everywhere should also be offended when someone desecrates our flag,” he said, adding that legislation is being considered in Washington which would give Congress the constitutional authority to protect Old Glory from desecration.
In addition to Whited’s message, Lt. Col. Francis Romeo presented his speech about the National Flag, and the American Legion Post No. 17 Concert Band — under the direction of Jack Averill — performed several patriotic songs.
In his remarks, Post Commander James Pallone said June 14, 1777, the United States designated June 14 as Flag Day, when the Continental Congress adopted a resolution saying that the flag of the United States would consist of 13 stripes, alternating red and white, and that the union would have 13 white stars in a blue field.
Pallone said the resolution did not describe the arrangement of the stars or allow for the changes that would be necessary as more states joined the union.
The colors were presented by the Jefferson County Veterans’ Honor Guard with assistance from the Big Run Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts.
Tige Woodson was recognized for attaining the rank of Eagle Scout as a member of the Big Run Scouts.
Also participating in the Flag Day services were Gene McKee, vice-commander; Robert Lott, quartermaster/adjutant, and Sara Dee Fox, auxiliary president.