McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

November 12, 2013

Flags flame at ceremony

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

KREBS — As a light breeze whipped through an orange and yellow flame Monday, members of Disabled American Veterans Chapter 20 hosted a flag retirement ceremony designed to respectfully dispose of American flags deemed no longer useable.

DAV members and other veterans, along with friends and family members, assembled nearby and watched the flag retirement ceremony unfold.

Alton Smith, of DAV Post 20, opened the ceremony, with an opening prayer by Ralph Perona. George Rosa lowered the flag to half staff, then raised it again for the Pledge of Allegiance.

“Today we honor the symbol of our freedom,” Smith said.

Before the ceremony, the red and white stripes on the American flag had been cut into strips. District 7 state Sen. Larry Boggs, D-Red Oak, dropped the red stripes into the flames first, with the stripes symbolizing the lifeblood of the men and women who were ready to die for their country.

Next, District 18 state Rep, Donnie Condit, D-McAlester,  participated in the program by slowly dropping the white stripes into the flames.

“As we drop the white stripes, let us remember those who protected us from the enemy,” Smith said.

The blue field represents justice, the “goal of free men everywhere,” he said.

“As we retire the blue colors, let us think of the future and what it holds,” Smith said, as  DAV Chapter 20 member Glen Eller dropped the remaining blue field with its 50 stars into the flames.

Boggs and Condit both briefly addressed those assembled.

Many times, he speaks as a senator, Boggs said.

“Today, I’d like to speak as a veteran.”

Boggs said he told his father after graduating high school he wanted to enlist and serve his country because he felt it was his duty.

His father told him “It’s an honor and a privilege” to serve his nation, Boggs said, adding that he agreed.

“You carried the torch of freedom wherever it needed to go,” Boggs told his fellow veterans. He also said they were there to honor those who gave their all “in blood and tears.”

Condit spoke of members of his family who were veterans, including his uncle, his father and his father-in-law.

He told of finding a box of letters sent back home by his father-in-law, the late John Keller, while Keller served in the Philippines during World War II.

“He never complained,” Condit said, despite the harsh conditions U.S. forces faced in the Philippines during World War II.

Others participating in the ceremony included DAV members Tom Jones and Rick Kelley.

McAlester veteran Claude Stokes, among those attending the DAV ceremony, brought along some worn flags he said needed to be retired.

“One was mine; the other was Clyde’s,” he said, referring to his twin brother , Clyde Stokes.

During World War II, Clyde and Claude Stokes, fought across North Africa, then Italy and Germany, as members of the 636th Tank Battalion. They had to get special permission to serve on the same tank, because of military provisions against brothers serving together. If the tank had been destroyed with them inside it, the family would have suffered a double loss.

Some of the many other veterans attending Monday’s flag retirement ceremony included Richard Ryan and Lane Johnson.

Smith, who had opened the program, said the Stars and Stripes will endure “as long as men cherish liberty more than life itself.”

During his address, Boggs expressed his hope for Veterans Day.

“I would hope and pray, as you go along today, you would honor every veteran who comes along,” he said.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.