Elks Keep Patriotic Tradition Alive

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Thursday is Flag Day and on that morning, at 11 a.m., the Payson Elks Lodge will present a patriotic tribute to the American Flag.

"All citizens are cordially invited," said Victor Mozart, Exalted Ruler of Lodge 2154.

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Civil Air Patrol cadets salute the American flag.

As a patriotic organization, the Elks celebrate Flag Day because "the destiny of our country is forever joined beneath the folds of the Stars and Stripes."

Youth are particularly encouraged to attend the ceremony, which has become a Payson tradition.

One mission of the Elks is to ensure that the American flag is not taken for granted by anyone, and they hope their Flag Day ceremonies serve to pass the traditions and values the flag represent from generation to generation.

"Our flag has a proud and glorious history. It represents our independence and unity as a nation -- under God, indivisible. It was at the lead of every battle fought by Americans and many people have died protecting it. It even stands proudly on the surface of the moon," reads the Elks' literature.

The flag symbolizes the freedom Mozart appreciates, especially as a European immigrant.

"America is my country," Mozart said. "I spent most of my years living and taking care of my family here."

During World War II, he spent two years mining coal in a German prison camp in Belgium.

At the end of the war, when GIs headed home to their families, Mozart became a civil guard for property the Army left behind.

In 1947, at age 26, he immigrated to the United States.

Thursday's program will feature patriotic music provided by lodge member Larry Ellis. Civil Air Patrol cadets will present the colors and Scouts, both girls and boys, will present the Elks' flag.

Councilor Su Connell, will represent the mayor and the Town of Payson.

The highlight of the ceremony is the Elks' ritual, Tribute to Our Flag.

The Stars and Stripes was officially made the symbol of the United States by the second Continental Congress, 230 years ago.

The Founders declared that the 13 stars, representing the 13 original colonies of the United States of America, were a "new constellation."

Both houses of Congress approved the designation of June 14 as "Flag Day" on Aug. 3, 1949.

On June 9, 1966, the statute was amended. Since then, the President has issued a proclamation that designates each week in which June 14 occurs, as National Flag Week.

All citizens are encouraged to display the flag during that week -- June 10 through June 17.

"I also call upon the people of the United States to observe with pride and all due ceremony those days, from Flag Day through Independence Day, as a time to honor America, to celebrate our heritage in public gatherings and activities, and to publicly recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America," wrote President George W. Bush in a June 5, White House press release.

"Let's fill our hall and show our respect for the flag," Mozart said.

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