Salisbury Elks salute Flag Day

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 15, 2024

The Salisbury Elks Lodge #699 held its annual Flag Day Ceremony at the N.C. State Veterans Home on  June 9. Although the observance of National Flag Day is June 14, the Elks hosted the event over the weekend to allow more people to attend. More than 30 guests were present including Elks’ members, local veterans and staff.

Kenny Martin, the Salisbury Elks Exalted Ruler, and other lodge officers, led the hourlong service which featured the presentation and history of the American flags.

Local speakers also imparted inspiring words and reflections about their experiences. 

Harry Agner, 93, spent 23 years in the military, most of his service with the North Carolina National Guard. He shared his patriotic spirit, dedication and encouragement to others.

“I am really proud to be an American,” Agner said. “I’ve been to other countries who do not have the freedoms we do. I’ve seen some things that I wish I hadn’t. Our country has a lot of problems, but we can fix them because at the end of the day, we are all Americans.”

Agner has been an active member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks (BPOE) for 66 years. His officer roles include past exalted ruler and past district deputy to the grand exalted ruler. 

As the nine American flags were presented during the ceremony, the origination and meaning of each flag were given. It started with the Pine Tree flag adopted in 1775 and concluded with the current Stars and Stripes and the POW/MIA flags.  

Archie Blythe is a veteran of the United States Navy. As a second-class petty officer, he served from 1998-2002. He is also a past exalted ruler of the local lodge. Blythe reflected on why it is important to gather and to remember what the American flag represents.

“On the day we as Elks celebrate this ceremony, it is very enduring,” Blythe said. “It reminds me that though we are not a perfect people, we are lucky to be here and to be American. In my opinion, this is the best country in the world, because we are free.”

The core principles of charity, justice, brotherly love and fidelity symbolize the significance of the flag to the order. The BPOE is the first and only fraternal body to require formal observance of Flag Day. They celebrate over 115 years of the Grand Lodge’s 1907 designation of June 14 as Flag Day, which was followed in 1911 with the order’s approval for mandatory observance by all Lodges. 

Both President Wilson, in 1916, and President Coolidge, in 1927, issued proclamations asking for June 14 to be observed as the National Flag Day. But it wasn’t until Aug. 3, 1949, that Congress approved the national observance, and President Harry Truman, who was a member of the BPOE, signed it into law.

Martin is a retired first sergeant and served for 32 years with the N.C. Army National Guard. He is grateful to everyone who makes this special event happen each year. 

“The flag day ceremony that we shared with our veterans at the N.C. State Veterans Home meant a lot to me, both as an Elk member and as a retired Army veteran,” Martin said. “Being able to provide this flag ceremony for our heroes that fought for our beautiful flag and country is very heartwarming.  You can see how much it means to them, and it means just as much to all the Elks.”