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Pa. retreat ceremonies honor flag

June 14, 2000|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A lone bugler called retreat Wednesday at 7:20 p.m. and will continue each evening through the Fourth of July at veteran and fraternal organizations around the Chambersburg area to honor the U.S. flag and those who have served the banner.

"This is something peculiar to this area," Franklin County Sheriff Robert Wollyung, president of the Cumberland Valley 21-Day Retreat Organization, said last week.

Since 1985, the organization has held retreat ceremonies from Flag Day to Independence Day.

Since 1986, the retreats have culminated with a fireworks display at Chambersburg's Memorial Park. This year's pyrotechnics will be the grandest ever "to usher in the new millennium or celebrate the end of the last, depending on how you figure it," Wollyung told the Chambersburg Borough Council last week.

Instead of the usual $10,000 display, the organization is paying for $12,000 worth of fireworks from Pyrotechnics by Shaeffer of Lancaster, Pa., Wollyung said. Weather permitting, the company will fire off another 600 shells that were paid for but not fired last year, Wollyung said.

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"During the ceremonies we're trying to remember all who have served the flag and honor the flag, as well," Wollyung said.

Each evening members go to a participating fraternal organization in the area and perform the formal retreat ceremony, with members in their post or organziation regalia.

The initial ceremony, hosted by the Elks Club, was held Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. with a presentation of flags Americans have fought under since Congress approved the basic design for the banner in 1777. At 7:20 p.m. the flag in front of the Franklin County Courthouse was lowered, folded according to flag etiquette and presented to the Elks, Wollyung said.

"We took the military ceremony and modified it slightly," said Michael Sabol, who founded the 21-Day Retreat Organization 15 years ago with James Buhrman. Both Chambersburg men were members of the Elks and Knights of Columbus at the time, he said.

At U.S. military bases in this country and abroad, retreat is called at 5 p.m. Sabol said the organization decided to have it later to allow the color guards time to come home from work and have dinner.

"Patriotism. That and respect for the flag," Sabol said when asked why the organization was created. "A lot of people today don't respect the flag," he said.

The organization raises money by selling food, soft drinks and other refreshments on the Fourth of July, Wollyung said. The organization has two truckloads of food stands, fryers and other equipment waiting to be set up at the park.

This year it is also selling raffle tickets for a quilt made by Alta Holden of Chambersburg, Wollyung said.

Unfortunately, it is becoming harder to find people to show up for the retreats and the long day of setting up on the Fourth of July. Clerk of Courts William Vanderew said the work is falling on increasingly older shoulders.

"I'm one of the youngest, if not the youngest member," said Vanderew, who is 53. "It's hard to get people to work on a holiday," he said.

Last week Wollyung told the borough council the fund-raising for this year's fireworks is running about $3,000 short of the goal. He said contributions can be sent to: Cumberland Valley 21-Day Retreat, c/o Knights of Columbus, 336 E. Garfield St., Chambersburg, Pa. 17201.

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