Celebration of Life for Old Glory in Thedford

Celebration of Life for Old Glory in Thedford
Flags awaiting retirement. Photo: Terri Licking

THEDFORD–Nearly two dozen of our nation’s flags–tattered and torn–were burned in a solemn, respectful ceremony by the veterans of American Legion Steidley-Kayton Post 230 at Thedford on November 10.

The flag retirement ceremony was preceded by a free-will donation meal at the Legion hall of grilled hamburgers, brats, salads, beans, chips, and desserts, including a specially made 100th anniversary cake of the American Legion. Proceeds from the meal will go towards the posts’ American Legion Auxiliary (ALA).

November 11, 2019 is the 100th anniversary of what was first called Armistice day, when the guns fell silent and a peace treaty was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to end the Great War.

The local post’s flag oversees the retirement ceremony of its comrades. Photo: Terri Licking

The flag retirement program took place behind the hall and paralleled more a celebration of life of a family member or dear friend. Respect is paid to family and friends when their life of service is over after working and toiling all their lives to make a better life for their family. These flags too were old friends, who gave years of service, flying over the lawns of individuals or by the courthouses, post offices, banks and other federal buildings each and every day.

Some of the flags flew strictly on the special holidays such as Memorial Day in May, Flag Day in June, Independence Day in July, Patriot’s Day in September, or Veteran’s Day in November. Some were tattered as they hung on our community’s light poles, whipped by the high winds of Nebraska. Others hung only for three days or so every year for several years in our area’s cemeteries during Memorial Day weekend. Close to forty residents braved the cold to stand and pay their respects to our country’s flag, Old Glory.

(the nickname given her in 1831 by shipmaster, Captain William Driver – http://www.flagpro.com/blog/why-do-people-call-the-american-flag-%E2%80%9Cold-glory%E2%80%9D/ )

On hand for this solemn occasion was District Commander of the American Legion (AL) Richard Colson, Paxton, and his wife, Vicki, who is the District President of the ALA. Richard oversees 23 posts in the eight counties of Perkins, Keith, Arthur, Thomas, Hooker, Dawson, Lincoln and Logan while Vicki’s area is the same, but has only twenty ALA, as not all posts have the auxiliary with them.

“The command is a two-year term, so I’ll be done in June 2020,” he stated. His service was during the Vietnam era, in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Colson has been to several flag retirement ceremonies over the years. “I remember one of my first was in Ogallala where it had been thirty years since one had been done. A back of a pick-up was piled high with old flags, over 1400 flags were burned that day.”

Colson went on to give an update of the American Legion. It was chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919. “It is the only veteran’s organization that Congress oversees. In fact, four months ago (July 23) Congress passed the LEGION Act.” (https://www.legion.org/legislative/246451/Y29uZ3Jlc3).

Colson continued, “It states any veteran from December 7, 1941 to now can join an AL post. This is for all veterans that served during the Cold War or who are serving now in a hostile environment. It is also for the 1,600 plus who died during that time serving their country when no war was officially declared. As this is the 100th anniversary of the American Legion, it is time for any of our service men and women that wore our country’s uniform admirably to be welcomed into the American Legion.”

He went on to say that his post’s members are personally inviting the area’s veterans that were not allowed in earlier to join their AL by paying that veteran’s first year’s membership dues. “This is the least we can do to compensate for the slight shown them all these years.”

Veterans Jerry Linn, Dean Figard proudly display the cake honoring the 100th anniversary of the American Legion, chartered by Congress after the end of the Great War in 1919. Photo: Terri Licking
Veterans present -L2R Local post commander, John Bryant, Mark Amos, Alan Haumann, No ID (visiting veteran), Jerry Linn, District Post Commander, Richard Colson, Robert Mills, Virgil Uhrmacher, Russ DeNayer, Dean Figard, Julie Schaeffer, Terry Higgins and Royce Brown. Photo: Terri Licking