Flag retirement ceremony and honoring our veterans

Hiawatha, KS

HIAWATHA, Kan. — Brown County residents paused in two different ways on the eve of Veterans Day to honor an American symbol and a generation’s contributions.

First on Sunday afternoon, members of American Legion Homer White Post 66, Boy Scout Troop 313 and Cub Scout Pack 117 gathered at the Brown County Courthouse to formally retire U.S. flags no longer considered as usable. The service was performed at the request of Brown County Historical Society Director Eric Oldham.

"We haven’t had a flag-burning ceremony in a while,” said Steve Winter, the post’s vice commander.

A drop box was placed in the courthouse four months ago to allow residents to deposit worn flags for the event. Flags large and small, all precisely folded but with at least one in tatters, were delivered to the units.

“Citizens have supported that greatly,” Mr. Winter said. “We have over 200 flags to burn.”

A ceremonial flag was burned first to demonstrate to spectators how the retirements were to proceed.

“We are here to honor our national symbol,” Mr. Winter told the crowd, which included other veterans.

During the program, post members assembled on the northwest side of the courthouse to fire a three-volley salute and to play taps. Those honors were preceded by the recitation of names and wars of veterans from Brown and Doniphan counties who have died since last Veterans Day. The name of Sgt. 1st Class Forrest W. Robertson of Westmoreland, Kan., northeast of Manhattan, was last to be read. The 35-year-old U.S. Army cavalryman was killed in a Nov. 3 attack in Afghanistan.

The “last call” is a military tradition recognizing deceased veterans and has been known in Brown County as the “honor roll” since World War I. The majority of names read were those of World War II veterans. There was a moment of silence after all names were read.

“I believe they can be the next Greatest Generation,” Mr. Winter said of the participating Scouts.

Some Legion members plan to visit veterans today at local retirement homes, he added.

Simultaneous with the observance was the opening of “Our Lives, Our Stories: America’s Greatest Generation.” The traveling exhibit is located at the Frances Sewell Plamann History Center, 701 Oregon St., through Jan. 4. The Mid-America Arts Alliance in Kansas City is the facilitator of the National Endowment for the Humanities program.

The displays feature panels of photographs, quotes, a wide assortment of memorabilia and interactive media pertaining to those born in the 1910s and 1920s who lived through the Depression and World War II.

Two residents marveled at the breadth of the historic displays.

“It looks wonderful,” said Becky Schwanke of Hiawatha, stopping for a moment to gaze at a combination television/radio set from 1950. “We had a TV much like this one. ... My dad and mom tell stories.”

Lawrence Thonen of Hiawatha saw the education value of the pieces.

“I think it’s real nice,” he said. “It’s really informative for younger generations. ... I associate with a lot of these things.”

Mr. Oldham said the exhibit will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today. It also will be available for viewing from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays, but will not be open on the any of the upcoming holidays. Four sessions of speakers on related topics have been scheduled at the site into mid-December.

“We’ve had a good little crowd,” he said of the program’s special two-hour introduction.

The exhibit is free, but freewill donations are accepted. Sponsors are the Hiawatha Kiwanis Foundation, the Hiawatha Convention & Visitors Bureau, Union State Bank, Rainbow Communications, and Maximum Insurance.

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