By KELLY FOSNESS
CALUMET TOWNSHIP - The United States flag is a symbol of many things - hope, freedom, service and sacrifice - and that's exactly what Calumet Elks Lodge No. 404 paid tribute to during its Flag Day ceremony Thursday evening.
Kelly Fosness/Daily Mining Gazette
Calumet High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets present the 50-Star Flag before a procession of followers, which include members of the Elks, American Legion Post 61 and VFW Post 3900, during a Flag Day ceremony Thursday evening in Calumet.
More than 100 members and guests attended the observance, held at the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Calumet, to honor the nation's flag, celebrate the anniversary of its birth and to recall the achievements attained beneath its folds.
The evening consisted of a buffet dinner catered by Connie's Kitchen, and followed with a special program that included Calumet Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets with instructor Maj. Michael Farley, and the American Legion Post 61.
"It's quite appropriate that such a service should be held by the order of the Elks," District Vice President Dave Sladek said, after the singing of the Star Spangled Banner by JROTC cadet Rachel Kauppila and the invocation by Rev. Kenneth Toth. "(It's) an organization that is distinctly American and intensely patriotic."
Reciting background on the evening's ceremony, Sladek said the idea for a Flag Day service was first suggested in 1907 during a grand lodge session in Philadelphia. The following year, a ritual for the Flag Day ceremony was approved. In 1911, he said the grand lodge session at Atlantic City made the observance of Flag Day mandatory for all Elks lodges. It wasn't until Aug. 3, 1949, that then-U.S. President Harry S. Truman, an Elks member himself, designated June 14 Flag Day, Sladek said.
"Our order was not only the first fraternal organization to celebrate Flag Day, but this ceremony was made mandatory long years before the date became a nationwide observance by our government," he said. "Our service has become what it now is locally because of the support of Maj. Farley and the synergy of the Calumet Elks, JROTC and American Legion Post 61."
During the program, JROTC members presented and posted a series of eight flags, which Farley explained were, "flags that were flown over our country since its inception all the way up to the current flag." Cadets narrated a brief history of each.
Afterwards, Elks Lady Knight Jeannie Grathoff shared a history of the flag before leading attendees in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
The evening continued with a flag retirement ceremony, during which Sladek, with the help of two cadets, presented flags to American Legion Post 61 Commander Joe Finch and Toth, representing VFW Post 3900.
Korean War Veteran Charles Ryan, an Elks member for 53 years, said Flag Day is an important day for people to set aside.
"Patriotism is what we need in this country and more of it," he said. "Veterans especially appreciate the fact that people recognize the service they've given for their country."
Sixty-four-year Elks member Jack Forsberg, who was a Calumet JROTC cadet in 1940, said he has two granddaughters involved in the JROTC program, Shannon and Rebecca Forsberg.
"I get teary-eyed," Forsberg said after Thursday's program. "I'm really proud of them."
Also Thursday, Elks members:
heard from Finch they've established a process to properly retire flags. Individuals with worn, tattered flags are asked to drop them off in the barrel at the Calumet Township Hall.
"Once a month we will have a retiring for those flags," he said.
announced that Tom Primeau accepted the position of Exalted Ruler of the Calumet Elks.
presented an $1,800 check to JROTC Junior Leadership and Academic Bowl cadets on behalf of fundraising efforts by the Elks, American Legion Post 61 and VFW Post 3900 to be used for travel expenses to Washington D.C. next week.