BEMIDJI -- The history and purpose of the American flag was memorialized on Monday as local Bemidji Elks and American Legion members conducted a traditional Flag Day ceremony, including the retirement of decommissioned flags.

Around 40 people were in attendance for the ceremony on June 14, including Bemidji Mayor Jorge Prince and Bemidji City Councilwoman Audrey Thayer.

As attendees placed their hands over their hearts, American Legion Ralph Gracie Post No. 14 Commander Joe Vene sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" to kick off the event.

American Legion member Joe Vene sings “The Star-Spangled Banner” during a Flag Day ceremony on Monday, June 14, 2021, at Ralph Gracie Memorial Park in Bemidji.  (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
American Legion member Joe Vene sings “The Star-Spangled Banner” during a Flag Day ceremony on Monday, June 14, 2021, at Ralph Gracie Memorial Park in Bemidji. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

“The purpose of the event is to honor the American flag and all that it stands for to those that serve in a loyal civilian body that have always appreciated and supported the military," Vene said.

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After a short prayer read by Bemidji Elks Current Exalted Ruler Keith Olson, Past Exalted Ruler Mark Dickinson then read the history of the American flag as eight flag bearers hoisted different variations of the flag throughout history for attendees to see. As the individual flags were raised, Dickinson explained the importance behind each one.

"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; it holds the opportunity for the future to add other stars to the glorious constellation," Dickinson continued.

American Legion member Jim Stanton holds up a Betsy Ross flag during a Flag Day ceremony on Monday, June 14, 2021, at Ralph Gracie Memorial Park in Bemidji. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
American Legion member Jim Stanton holds up a Betsy Ross flag during a Flag Day ceremony on Monday, June 14, 2021, at Ralph Gracie Memorial Park in Bemidji. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

Bemidji Elks Trustee Don Papreck then sang "God Bless America." After reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, community members gathered around as members of the American Legion Honor Guard performed a proper flag burning ceremony to wrap up the event, disposing of decommissioned American flags in a red, white and blue metal barrel.

“Our flag represents so much, as we said today, and we want to make sure that we have a day for that because these days with all the things going on it can slip by,” Joe Dunn, Bemidji Elks past exalted ruler, said of the event. “It’s a very beautiful day and a nice turnout.”