Proud Salute

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MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Cub Scout Austin Larson, 8, of Montoursville, of Pack 88, salutes during the playing of the National Anthem during the 35th annual Williamsport/Lycoming Flags Across America March Thursday. Austin is the son of Chad and Lesley Larson, of Montoursville.

Flag Honored Amid Tumultuous Times

Source: Williamsport Sun Gazette published Friday, June 16, 2018

Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs, their leaders, veterans of war and local dignitaries marched waving the American flag through the streets of Williamsport Thursday night.

It was an evening mirroring those across the nation called the Flags Across America March, made perfect for the 35th local event by the breeze that picked up the fabric on red, white and blue, causing it to undulate and seem to come alive.

It has been a year when the flag has taken a beating.

“They have the right to protest but I don’t support them,” said Dakota Schweikart, 17, of Jersey Shore, referring to a controversial movement in the National Football League as some players refuse to stand for the National Anthem in what they say is a protest against inequality and racism.

The Scout, who is thinking of joining a branch of the military, said it is the right of anyone to protest, a privilege given by the sacrifice of others.

Cub packs, and the myriad of others — including Korean War veterans, veterans of Vietnam War and Gulf wars, Blue Star Mothers, Daughters of the American Revolution and others attended the half-mile march and ceremony at Pennsylvania College of Technology.

The Repasz Band, the same band that played as the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered to the Army of the Potomac at Appomattox courthouse to end the Civil War, performed its newest piece — Liberty, after the flag salute and the playing of the National Anthem.

William Carlucci, the master of ceremonies, kept the night moving and had Scout Troop 38 help him as the 13 folds of the flag were done.

Pet dogs, draped in red, white and blue, were given bowls of fresh water to drink, and snacks served to the parade participants and spectators alike.

County Commissioner Jack McKernan took a page from former Department of Education Secretary William Bennett’s “Book of Virtues,” and read an editorial published July 14, 1940, in the New York Times focusing on the meaning of the American flag.

McKernan observed how the Thomas T. Taber Museum of the Lycoming County Historical Society, just blocks away, had a flag circa 1860s that flew near the candidate Abraham Lincoln before he became immortalized as president of the United States, during the most horrific time in the nation’s history since the American Revolution.

Commissioner Rick Mirabito also said it was an honor to represent the 116,000 county residents, some of whom were in attendance who defended the nation’s honor and are the “true heroes,” including a 97-year-old veteran Donald L. Koons, a veteran of World War II who flew 35 bombing missions in a B-17 during the war as a ball turret gunner in the Army Air Corps, the predecessor of the Air Force.

It was Koons’ and the crew who helped to liberate France by bombing Nazi German positions.

He watched as boys and girls and families gathered for the patriotic display.

Mirabito said the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777, drafted a resolution for the flag consisting then of 13 stripes alternating in red and white and the 13 white stars on the blue background, which would be a new constellation.

Precisely 108 years after that resolution, in 1885, Bernard J. Cigrand, a school teacher in Waubeka, Wisconsin, wanted to see a day reserved on June 14 of the year for honoring the American flag.

Today, Mirabito said, the flag is a symbol of liberty, freedom, freedom to worship freely and commitment to country, county and community.

“You know what the flag stands for,” Mirabito said. “You will teach those who come after you.”

Carlucci also introduced the founder of the local Flags Across America March, always a Boy Scout — Anthony DiSalvo, who waved to the crowd to thunderous applause.

The traditional trophy distribution, affectionately known as the Tony Awards, were then handed out.

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