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A salute to the flag: American Legion, Elks hold Flag Day ceremony

Cub Scout Garret Halverson, 9, salutes during the Flag Day ceremony on Thursday at Ralph Gracie Memorial Park. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer) 1 / 3
A Flag Day ceremony was held Thursday at Ralph Gracie Memorial Park. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 3
Tom Annonson, past commander of the American Legion Post 14, eyes the fire before the flag disposal at Thursday's Flag Day ceremony at Ralph Gracie Memorial Park. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)3 / 3

BEMIDJI -- The wind blew the eight variations of the American flags in salute as U.S. Army veteran Joe Vene sang the National Anthem on Thursday to kick off the 2018 Flag Day ceremony at Ralph Gracie Park.

Mark Christensen, past exalted ruler of the Bemidji Elks Lodge, gave a brief history of the flag and its meaning.

“The evolution of the American Flag marks the progression of the government of the American people,” he said during the event, which started at noon at the park across from BSU.

Eight flag bearers held the different variations of the American flag through history. The flag bearers would hold up their individual flag while Christensen explained the history behind each.

“Our present flag -- 50 stars and 13 stripes,” Christensen said. “It is accompanied by the POW-MIA flag to recognize the plight and demise of a special group of our Armed Services, those who were prisoners of war or still remain missing in action.”

Claude Sand, commander of Ralph Gracie American Legion Post No. 14 that presented the colors at the event, concluded the ceremony with the announcement that they would be conducting “a dignified disposal of the American flag.”

Members of the Ralph Gracie Post No. 14 took it upon themselves to look over the flag to check for authenticity before setting it ablaze in a patriotic red, white and blue metal barrel signifying American pride.

“Our flag is at once a history, a declaration and a prophecy. It represents the American nation as it was at its birth; it speaks for what it is today; and it holds the opportunity for the future to add other stars to the glorious constellation,” Christensen said, as Flag Day represents the birth of the American flag itself.

The Bemidji Elks Lodge No. 1052 also presented a $250 check to the Beltrami County Veterans Services Office during the ceremony.

Cook is a summer reporting intern for the Pioneer.