Kimberling City Elks Lodge holds service to celebrate Flag Day
For more than 100 years, Americans have celebrated our country's flag on June 14.
On Sunday, members of the Elks Lodge in Kimberling City gathered for a ceremony in honor of the holiday.
"Flag Day is a special day for us in the military, every day is Flag Day," said David McAllister, Navy veteran and member of the honor guard and color guard.
Ray Koca, the exalted ruler of Kimberling City Elks Lodge #2505, holds a formal flag day service every year, according to the lodge. But, Sunday, for the first time, their ceremony was led by a local color guard.
Leaders gave a presentation about the history of the flag, ending with the 50 stars and 13 stripes we know it today.
"I understand a lot of people think about the flag differently than some of us do," said Gary Bitto, an Army Reserves and Air Force veteran.
Bitto was also a part of the Color Guard.
Many veterans shared their stories on Sunday before the Flag Day service began. They reflected back on the times that they served and the history of our country's flag.
"We are the greatest country on earth and we will stay that way," McAllister said.
The ceremony concluded with members reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
"There's been a lot of men, and these gentlemen coming in are veterans that have risked their lives, and lost them, defending that flag," said George Akers, who is celebrating his 46th year as an Elk.
Each person we spoke with saw different significance in the flag.
"You had to turn around and remind yourself every day what you were there for by looking at that flag," said McAllister. "The flag flew on the main mast of every ship I was on, and while the ship was underwa,y you would look up and see that flag flying and knew what you were out there for. "
"All of the bodies that we have lost throughout the years and we continue to lose them daily," Bitto added.
"There isn't any place else on this earth where you can go and be free. That's what it means to me," said Robert McMorris, a Navy Veteran
Koca said Elks Lodges across the nation held the same ceremony for their members Sunday.