Payson Celebrates First Flag Day Tribute

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For some, Flag Day is honoring an American symbol. For others, it is remembering those who fought for our country.

For 14-year-old Dane Silvia, it was presenting the flag with the Civil Air Patrol color guard.

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Motorcycles and classic cars paraded down the Beeline Highway on Monday to observe Payson's first Flag Day celebration.

"I'm just hoping to outdo the Boy Scouts," he said.

Dane was one of about 50 veterans, parents and children who celebrated Payson's first Flag Day ceremony Monday at Green Valley Park.

The ceremony included patriotic songs performed by Peggy Tepolt, remarks by Mayor Barbara Brewer and an Order of the Elks Ritual Tribute to the Flag.

The Ritual Tribute presented the history of the American Flag, from the first 13 stars to the final 50.

The ceremony marked the first time the Ritual Tribute was presented in public, according to Bill Sahno, adviser to the Payson Patriotic Events Committee.

"Flag Day, as you see it, will become, hopefully, a tradition to our youth and patriotism," Sahno said.

About 20 children from the Julia Randall School summer reading program lined the sidewalks. Students from the second to fifth grades waved homemade flags, recited the pledge of allegiance and played in the grass during the hour-long ceremony.

"We're a very small community, but we are very patriotic," Lu DeSomma, community events coordinator for Wal-Mart, said. "It's important we include our young people in the merits and memory of the flag."

The program also included a special award presentation to Dee "Buckshot Dot" Strickland Johnson. The Marine Corps League awarded Johnson a Flag Day award on behalf of the residents of Payson to thank her for singing the national anthem and to commend her for her patriotism.

"It's overwhelming ... it's extremely emotional," Johnson said. "The flag is an important symbol of the greatest nation in the world. I can never see it pass without tears in my eyes."

The ceremony also was important to veterans like Cheyenne Riley, who served in Vietnam. Riley, a member of American Legion Post 69, said he remembers commemorating patriotic holidays during the war.

"It was special," he said. "It gave you a reason why you were there."

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