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Patriotic ceremony a collaborative effort

November 02, 2009|By BRIDGET DiCOSMO

HAGERSTOWN -- When Nancy Mullinex stepped off a city bus at Public Square in downtown Hagerstown during the lunch hour Monday, she wasn't sure why there was a small crowd gathered in front of an American flag.

After learning that a brief flag ceremony -- a collaborative effort between three local Exchange Club chapters -- was designed to remind people of the sentiment behind the flag, Mullinex said she thought it was an important concept.

"I think it's a good idea. A lot of people don't know how to fly the flag or any of that," said Mullinex, of Hagerstown.

Scott Paddack, president of the Antietam chapter of the National Exchange Club, said the organizations had searched for a way of reinforcing their constant goal of promoting "Americanism."

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"For us, it was a matter of creating a simple event where people can stop by when they got off work, on their way to lunch," Paddack said.

A handful of city officials and several curious pedestrians like Mullinex stopped by the flag ceremony, held Monday at 12:15 p.m.

The small group listened as Paddack recited a brief history of the Pledge of Allegiance, composed by Francis Bellamy in 1892.

"The very simple process of writing the pledge was that -- to keep it simple," Paddack said.

The Hagerstown, Antietam and Washington County Friends of Education Exchange Club chapters have each held flag ceremonies for years, but Monday was the first time the clubs joined forces, said Dave Ashburn, president of the Washington County chapter of the National Exchange Club.

"I think the whole idea is Americanism," Ashburn said.

Ashburn said he believes the country is losing the unity formed in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and he believes events like Monday's short ceremony are important to bring people together and promote patriotism.

Paddack, who serves as senior district executive for Boy Scouts of America, said Scouts who attended the event would be fulfilling a flag ceremony requirement.

Two Boy Scouts, Daved Paddack, 15, and Garrett Singer, 14, participated in the ceremony and presented the colors.

Garrett had never participated in a flag event before. He said he felt a little nervous beforehand and hoped he wouldn't make a mistake.

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