Williamsport Red Men hold flag-retirement and recognition ceremony

'We are honored to retire our flags that have flown so proudly'

June 15, 2013|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI |
  • Calvin Davis, 92, of Hagerstown, and his daughter and son-in-law, Dee and Rusty Reichmeider, 64 and 69, also of Hagerstown, applaud the patriotic music of the Williamsport Community Band on Saturday at the Improved Order of Red Men Tribe 84's annual flag-retirement and recognition ceremony in Williamsport.
By Alicia Notarianni

WILLIAMSPORT, Md. — The words of the Gettysburg Address thundered from the pavilion of the Improved Order of Red Men Tribe 84 in Williamsport on Saturday.

Nelson Deal of Maugansville delivered the address with the colorful, commanding style of an early TV commentator, underscored by the patriotic tunes of the Williamsport Community Band. U.S. flags fluttered in the breeze as a crowd looked solemnly on at the Red Men’s annual flag-retirement and recognition ceremony.

Event chairman Tom Burke said the retirement ceremony, which invites community members to bring in their worn flags for proper retirement, is a Red Men tradition. But the local tribe did not conduct such ceremonies until Burke assumed a leadership position known as sachem in 2007.

“The first thing I said as sachem was, ‘We will have a flag retirement ceremony,’” Burke said. “We are proud to be able to honor our country and our flag.”

The Red Men organization is founded on a dedication to the United States of America and the principles of American liberty, he said.

The group’s first ceremony was held on the small sidewalk in front of the building. Burke pulled a couple of men from the bar inside to participate.

The next two years, it moved to the parking lot, and as it gained momentum and the Williamsport Community Band came on board, it found its home in the group’s large pavilion.

This year, about five area honor guards and a Boy Scout troop participated and about 100 people from the community observed.

“The bigger it is, the more fun it is,” Burke said.

Former Washington County Commissioner and retired U.S. Army official Ronald L. Bowers presented the keynote address. Bowers commended the U.S. military as well as first-responders for their service.

“Take a moment to look at the flags, to look at your own patriotism, to look at the young Scouts who are learning about patriotism,” he said. “We are honored to retire our flags that have flown so proudly.”

Jim Ryan, 11, a member of Boy Scout Troop 58 of Downsville, presented a flag for formal inspection. Jim said it was “cool” to serve alongside the Washington County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard and the U.S. Marine Corps League Antietam Detachment.

His mother, Patricia Ryan, 47, of Williamsport said it was remarkable to witness such support and dedication to the U.S. flag.

“It’s overwhelming how many people still have the United States in their hearts, the patriotism and the support of our American troops both here and abroad,” she said. “It was our first time here and it will not be our last. This was a splendid event.”

Amanda VanHorn, 31, of Williamsport attended with her son, Darren VanHorn, 12, who also is a member of Troop 58.

“The ceremony gave me goose bumps,” she said.

Rusty Reichmeider, 69, of Hagerstown was a paratrooper in the U.S. Army. He attended the flag-retirement with his wife, Dee Reichmeider, 64, and her father, Calvin Davis, 92, of Hagerstown, a World War II veteran. The Reichmeiders said they had flags that needed to be retired.

“I was really impressed with the whole ceremony, to hear the band and to see the community support,” Rusty Reichmeider said.

Dee Reichmeider said she “loved” the involvement of the Boy Scouts and honor guards.

“It makes you feel really patriotic,” she said.

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