Deadwood Elks Lodge celebrates Flag Day at Outlaw Square

Members of the Deadwood Elks Lodge performed a half-hour-long Flag Day ceremony Monday morning at Outlaw Square, complete with live organ music by Tom Dewey, which included the Star-Spangled Banner and God Bless America. Pioneer photo by Jaci Conrad Pearson

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DEADWOOD — The American flag in its many forms, splendor, and glory was the focus of the Deadwood Elks Lodge’s annual Flag Day ceremony Monday at Outlaw Square.

Deadwood Mayor and Elks Grand Exalted Ruler David Ruth, Jr. served as Master of Ceremonies.

“The purpose of this service is to honor our country’s flag, to celebrate the anniversary of its birth, and to recall the achievements attained beneath its folds,” Ruth said. “It is highly appropriate such a service should be held by the Elks, an organization that is distinctively American, intensely patriotic, and without counterpart … charity, justice, brotherly love, and fidelity are the cardinal principals of our order and they are exemplified in all of our services. By them, we teach love of country and of our countrymen and loyalty to our American way of life. To be an Elk is to be an American citizen who lives for their country and is ready to die for it,” Ruth said.

Elks Chaplain Lenessa Keehn gave the ceremonial prayer, asking that the ceremony bring to each in attendance a sense of loyalty to country, enabling them to be better patriots, truer citizens, and more loyal Americans.

“Almighty God, in this hour of patriotic observance of the birthday of the American flag, we ask you to bless our flag and the people of these United States,” Keehn said. “For all that our flag represents, both at home and abroad, we thank thee. And that through all our history as a nation, it has been an ensign of freedom, liberty, and opportunity.”

Elks Member George Milos gave a history of the flag, as Elijah and Jonas Runge progressively presented each version that has represented the United States over the last 300 years.

“The evolution of the American flag marks the progression of the government of the American people,” Milos said. “From the founding of Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 until 1775, the flag of England was the flag of the peoples of America. In 1775, the pine tree flag was adopted for all colonial vessels and this was the flag carried by the continental forces in the Battle of Bunker Hill.”

The 1776-1777 snake flag flown by the southern colonies was presented, followed by the flag flown by the 13 colonies in 1775.

“In response to a general demand for a banner more representative of our country, the Congress, on June 14, 1777 provided that the flag of the United States be 13 stripes of alternating red and white and that the union be 13 stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation,” Milos said.

In 1776, Betsy Ross was commissioned to make a flag and suggested that the star have five points, rather than six and was first flown Aug. 3, 1777.

“The first official salute to the Stars ‘N Stripes was given on Feb. 14, 1778 by France on the French Coast when the Ranger under the command of John Paul Jones was saluted by the French fleet,” Milos said.

In 1795, two additional stars and stripes were added to represent additions of Vermont and Kentucky and the War of 1812 was fought under this banner.

“It was the sight of it flying over Ft. McHenry September 14, 1814 that inspired Francis Scott Key to write what was to become our national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner,” Milos said.

On and after July 4, 1818, Congress set forth by resolution that each state should be represented by a star.

“Since 1818, there has been no change in the flag design, except that 28 new stars were added before July 4, 1912 and this flag of 48 stars flew over this nation for 47 years until just before the Vietnam War,” Milos said. “On July 4, 1959, a star was added for Alaska, our first non-connected state, and a year later, Hawaii, our island state, added a 50th star.”

The present flag, 50 stars and 13 stripes, was presented, accompanied by the POW flag.

“Our flag is, at once, a history, a declaration, and a prophecy,” Ruth said. “It represents the American nation as it was at its birth and speaks for what it is today and holds the opportunity for the future to add other stars to the glorious constellation. The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks is the first and only fraternal body to require formal observance of Flag Day. In July of 1908, the Grand Lodge of this Order at Dallas, Texas provided for the nationwide observance of Flag Day on the 14th of June each year by making it mandatory upon each local Lodge of the Order.”

Past Exalted Ruler Kerry Ruth spoke of the Stars and Stripes, Flag of the United States of America.

“The worldwide hope of all, who, under God, would be free to live and do His will,” she said. “Upon its folds is written the story of America, the epic of the mightiest and noblest in all history.”

The flag was then formally honored by the Pledge of Allegiance, written in 1892.

Deadwood’s flag was presented by Keehn and daughters Allison and Abigail. Deadwood’s flag was dedicated June 17, 1989 after being developed by Tera Peppmeier who won first place out of 97 entries in a student art contest in honor of Deadwood’s status as Flag City USA.

“In conclusion of this observance of Flag Day, let us rededicate ourselves to the flag of the United States of America and may the principles of charity, justice, brotherly love, and fidelity ever increase in each of us,” David said.  

The ceremony was accompanied live by Elks member and organist Tom Dewey.

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