Clovis Elks Lodge’s 2023 Flag Day Ceremony

The last minutes before this National Flag is retired and ceremonially burned (Photo Destiny De La Cruz, Clovis Roundup)

June 14, 2023 – On the morning of June 14th, the Clovis Elks Lodge No. 2599 held a ceremony for Flag Day at Centennial Plaza in Old Town Clovis.

According to the Tim Salyer, “Patriotism has characterized the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America since the early days of the organization. Allegiance to the flag of our country is a requirement of every member.”

In 1907, the Elks Grand Lodge designated June 14th as Flag Day. By 1911, every Elks Lodge was mandated to observe Flag Day.

“This is the heritage of the people of the United States, it has been repurchased by each succeeding generation, and must be re-won again, and again, and again, until the end of time,” said Salyer.

The ceremony began with the United States Marine Corps Color Guard Platoon from Marine Wing Support Squadron 473 presenting the National Flag and the Marine Corps Battle Color.

Following the Marine Corps Color Guard, Boy Scout Troop 257 brought out several of our nation’s historical flags before presenting our current flag alongside the POW/MIA flag.

After speaking about the foreign wars our armed forces have been involved in, Fred Tarragon stated, “And who among us will ever forget the sight of firefighters raising our flag over the ruins of the World Trade Center, military personnel draping the flag on the side of the Pentagon, and the citizens of Somerset County, Pennsylvania placing the flag near the site where the brave Americans died [in the fight] against the hijackers of Flight 93? No other symbol could ever offer such comfort—as we still today endure the horrors of that day.”

“The great sacrifice of this flag, however, lies in the influence that it has in the hearts and minds of millions of people—and has waived over the umbrella of progression of this nation in developing democratic institutions, scientific & technological knowledge, education and culture. It has served as a beacon for millions of poor and oppressed refugees abroad, and stands as a promise that the underprivileged will not be forgotten.”

After speeches from some esteemed Elks Lodge members and keynote speaker Sonia Arreguin, the ceremony concluded with a flag retirement.

Boy Scout Troop 257 paying their respects by saluting the retired flag (Photo Destiny De La Cruz, Clovis Roundup)

In 1937, the American Legion passed a resolution that declared, “”The approved method of disposing of unserviceable flags has long been that they be destroyed by burning.” U.S. flag retirement and disposal by fire must be carried out in a specific, ceremonial manner. If the ceremonial retirement conditions are not met, burning the flag in an inappropriate manner could be considered desecration.

Boy Scout Troop 257 held up the worn, unserviceable flag before placing it in a ceremonial fire pit, saluting it as it burned. The flag was retired and disposed of in a ceremonial, respectful manner befitting our National flag. 

Since the founding of the United States in 1776, there have been 27 versions of the stars and stripes flag. “The evolution of the American flag marks the progression of the government and the American people,” said one of the Elks.

The first version of what we now know as the American flag was a flag called the “Grand Union Flag”, sometimes referred to as the “Continental Colors.” The Grand Union flag was created at the end of 1775, and had 13 red-and-white stripes with the British Jack in the upper left-hand-corner.

Later versions included a flag that had red-and-white stripes and 13 six-pointed white stars with a background of blue in the upper left-hand corner. Another version that is widely credited to Betsy Ross featured 13 five-pointed white stars in a circle.

In 1960, the 50-star flag we now know was adopted after Hawaii officially became our 50th state in 1959.

Among all of the flags displayed at the ceremony, the POW/MIA flag was displayed last but not least alongside our current National Flag. The flag is the official emblem of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the idea for a POW/MIA symbol was proposed in 1971 by Mrs. Mary Hoff. Mrs. Hoff was the wife of Lt. Commander Michael Hoff of the U.S. Navy, who was listed as missing in action during the Vietnam War.

From Mary Hoff’s idea, the POW/MIA flag was eventually developed. The flag was officially adopted in 1972, while the Vietnam War was still ongoing.

In 2019, the National POW/MIA Flag Act was signed into law. This law requires the POW/MIA flag to be flown on certain federal properties, including at the Capitol.

To all of the U.S. military service members who were prisoners of war, are missing in action, or unaccounted for—you are not forgotten.

Destiny De La Cruz is a budding journalist with a passion for photojournalism. As a Fresno State alumni, she earned a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication & Journalism, the Film & Media Arts option with a minor in Anthropology. She has an interest in all things film, food, literature & outdoors.