Elks honor the Stars and Stripes

Former Korean War prisoner of war Newton Duke presents the Prisoner of War and Missing in Action flag during a June 10 Flag Day ceremony at the Pelham Civic Complex. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Members of Pelham’s Cahaba Valley Elks Lodge presented a history of America’s most recognizable symbol while honoring our country during a June 10 Flag Day ceremony at the Pelham Civic Complex.

During the ceremony, Elks Lodge members presented every American flag, including the Pine Tree Flag, the Gadsden Flag, the Grand Union Flag, the Betsy Ross Flag, the 15-star Flag, the 20-star Flag, the 48-star flag, the Prisoner of War and Missing in Action Flag and the 50-star Flag.

Jeff Morris sang songs such as “I’m proud to be an American” and “God bless the USA,” and Tuscaloosa’s Crimson Pride Chorus performed song such as “God bless America,” “Follow the Flag,” and “America the Beautiful.” The 313th U.S. Army Quintet Band performed the themes for each branch of the United States military.

Pelham Mayor Don Murphy praised the members of the Army National Guard 167th Infantry, which is assigned to the Army National Guard Armory in Pelham and is preparing to deploy to Afghanistan in the next few weeks.

“I’d like to thank them for their dedication, and for what they have sacrificed for our freedom,” Murphy said. “They will be in our hearts, thoughts and prayers.”

Following the parade of historic American flags, Boy Scout Troop 5 of North Shelby and Troop 404 of Pelham performed a flag retirement ceremony in the Civic Complex parking lot. Elks Lodge members also recognized past and present members of the military and their families and a pair of former prisoners of war: Vinson Tingle, who was a prisoner during World War II and Newton Duke, who was a prisoner during the Korean War.

“We are here today to honor the flag, what it means and what it stands for,” said Cahaba Valley Elks Lodge Exalted Ruler Betty Weems.

Murphy, a veteran of the U.S. Army, said the ceremony had personal significance to him.

“It’s an honor to gather together and celebrate our country and our freedom,” Murphy said. “I appreciate all the veterans in here and all over the world for what they’ve done for us.”