East Liberty County American Legion Post 321 conducted its second annual Patriot Day observance Tuesday in the grassy park near Riceboro City Hall.
Riceboro Mayor William Austin received an American flag that flew over the Pentagon and Fort Myers, Va. Midway Mayor Clemontine Washington also attended the observance.
Fire trucks from Riceboro and Walthourville flanked two rows of folding chairs where about 40 members of East Liberty County community watched and participated in the ceremony that took place on the concrete platform in front of the park grandstand.
Post 321 commander Dennis Fitzgerald welcomed everyone and thanked the participating mayors and fire departments.
He reminded guests the importance of remembering and observing the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, noting that children who were not born at that time took part in observances at their schools.
“Please do not forget what 9/11 means,” he said, noting that Americans can never become complacent and believe such an attack won’t happen again. “I love this country, and I know you do, too. Maybe next year, we’ll commemorate 9/11 with a Freedom Walk here in Riceboro.”
Following Fitzgerald’s remarks, two flag ceremonies were observed.
Jeff Bowen, Post 321 finance officer, and Darryl Woodard, post junior vice commander, presented an American flag to Fitzgerald who then presented it to Austin, telling him it was a gift to the city.
Austin accepted the flag and thanked Fitzgerald and Post 321 members for their service to the community.
The second flag ceremony was a flag-retirement ceremony. Six worn U.S. flags were retired, beginning with a flag that began its service two days after 9/11.
“The new flag was flown over the Pentagon in Alexandria, Va., and at Fort Myers, Va.,” Fitzgerald said. “The old flag was also flown at the Pentagon but on a fire truck parked there two days after the attack on 9/11. It’s worn and faded now and ready to retire.”
Woodard explained that worn U.S. flags are not retired to a shelf and never thrown away. He said the only respectful way to retire an American flag is to burn it during a retirement ceremony.
“We do these (retirement ceremonies) all the time,” Woodard said. “Normally, we don’t do them as part of a 9/11 observance, but we had a number of flags to retire, and one of them had a connection to 9/11.”
The first flag received a greater part of the ceremony. Bowen and Woodard were instructed by Fitzgerald to present the flag for inspection to A.J. Schmitt, senior vice commander, and Herbert Reed, sergeant of arms. Their “inspection” called for retirement. The men carefully unfolded the flag and draped it over an open flame.
Five more flags were burned, with Fitzgerald saluting each flag as it was placed in the flames.
“We really need to get more people to respect the flag,” Fitzgerald said, visibly moved by the ceremony as he repeated how much he loves this country.