Manahawkin Elks Lodge Receives Special Delivery for Flag Day Ceremony

Jun 14, 2017
Photo by: David Biggy Members of the Stafford Township Police Color Guard present the American and POW-MIA flags during the Manahawkin Elks Lodge 2340’s annual Flag day ceremony on June 11.

When local resident Anthony Chirico and his grandson, Michael, toured Manahawkin Elks Lodge 2340 and learned about all its community service efforts, Michael was so impressed he went back to Washington, D.C., and implored Congressman Evan Jenkins to do something special to recognize the club.

The congressman came up with a red, white and blue way to do so – by donating one of the American flags that recently flew over the United States Capitol.

“I received the FedEx package two days ago, on Friday,” said Chirico, who served for 37 years in the Army Reserve and whose grandson is Jenkins’ deputy chief of staff. “It’s a wonderful way to recognize an excellent lodge that does so much for the community.”

Chirico, who was on hand for the lodge’s annual Flag Day ceremony on Sunday, June 11, presented the flag to Exalted Ruler Dan Boseman following some remarks to the several dozen in attendance. Officially, Flag Day is June 14.

“This is to certify that the accompanying flag was flown over the United States Capitol on May 30, 2017,” said Chirico, reading from the certificate inside the box he had received. “At the request of the Honorable Evan Jenkins, Member of Congress, this flag was flown for the members of the Elks Lodge 2340 in Manahawkin, N.J., in recognition of their dedication, support and work for veterans, children with special needs and drug abuse awareness.”

The Elks’ Flag Day ceremony included a historic timeline of the various flags, presented by members of the Stafford Township Police Color Guard, that have represented America during the past 242 years – from the Pine Tree flag used by Continental forces in the Battle of Bunker Hill and the Snake flag used by the Southern colonies in 1776 and 1777 to the Grand Union flag flown over Gen. George Washington’s headquarters and ultimately the 50-star flag used today – along with commentary by several Elks officers regarding the significance and splendor of the flag.

“Our flag is at once a history, a declaration and a prophecy,” said Boseman, reading from the prepared commentary used for the annual ceremony. “It represents the American nation as it was at its birth. It speaks for what it is today, and it holds the opportunity for the future to add other stars to the glorious constellation.”

But at the lodge on Sunday was another special guest to offer his perspective of the Star Spangled Banner’s significance, one that is deeply personal.

“Just 10 days ago, I retired from the Army,” said Vincent Valinotti, a colonel from Warrington, Pa., who on June 1 ended his 30-year stint. “At my retirement ceremony, I was presented with an American flag as a symbol of our nation’s appreciation of my 30 years of service. In my home, I also have an American flag that flew over Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, on my birthday, while I was deployed as part of the multinational peacekeeping force in Kosovo from 2015 to 2016.

“While both of these flags have special meaning for me, what really moves me is when I see flags flying over the graves of our veterans’ cemeteries and all of the other cemeteries across the country.”

Paying homage to those who fought in World War I and II, Korea and Vietnam, Valinotti turned his focus to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and pointed to the revival of patriotism across the nation, when flags were displayed everywhere and the country “was united behind our military and, for a large part, behind our government.”

However, Valinotti said, that fervor seems to have waned, and he described the past 15 years as a period in which our nation remains at war in Iraq and Afghanistan while some worry another war may be coming soon and yet others believe we are at war with ourselves. He also pointed to the political divisiveness of the country and the evidence of such that runs rampant on social media and news channels each day.

“There are some people who have even used public forums to show disrespect for our great flag,” he said. “As you can probably guess, I am never happy when I see these incidents of disrespecting our flag occur. But I am not discouraged. Our country has gone through trying times in the past – times more trying than our current ones. We have always had dissenters.

“But we also have so many more people who care deeply about this country and our flag, and are proud of what it represents.”

Afterward, Valinotti praised the Elks for making Flag Day a special day within its lodge.

“The Elks here always do a great job of making sure we remember what our flag represents,” he said. “I’ve been a part of this ceremony a few times, and I really enjoy being a part of it.”

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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