Happy birthday, Old Glory and Army

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 15, 2001

Maj. Gen. Richard Coleman, left, and Sgt. Maj. Thomas Perryman of the 412th Engineer Command use swords to cut a birthday cake celebrating the Army’s 226th birthday and commemorating the 224th anniversary of the U.S. flag at the Morris Army Reserve Center Thursday. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[06/15/01] Miniature American flags outnumbered people Thursday at a Vicksburg ceremony to commemorate the United States’ adoption of the Stars and Stripes as its official emblem.

About 25 people, most associated with city or county government, assembled at the Monroe Street Rose Garden at 5:30 p.m. to hear Flag Day remarks by Mayor Robert Walker, patriotic music and a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance led by Walker’s two grandsons.

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Flag Day, first celebrated by the United States in 1977, marks the anniversary of the Continental Army’s adoption of Old Glory in 1777.

Walker blamed poor publicity for the small turnout at Vicksburg’s ceremony, which coincided with thousands of other Flag Day celebrations in the Central Time Zone.

“My office faxed out the notices,” said Walker, who was defeated in a bid for re-election last week by Laurence Leyens.

But Walker, who will leave office when Leyens is sworn in July 2, said attention should not be focused on the ceremony’s attendance.

“We never have a big turnout at these ceremonies anyway. You should look at the people who did come,” Walker said. “They took time out after work to come by and honor America with us.”

Reading from a written text at the ceremony, Walker said the American flag has the emotional significance of religious symbols.

Walker’s grandsons, Quinn Lewis, 11, and Jeremy Lewis, 10, led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance at the stroke of 6, the hour which a national plan designated for all Flag Day celebrations to “pause for the pledge.”

The pledge was sandwiched between performances of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America” by Cynthia Sims, a contract specialist for the Corps of Engineers’ Vicksburg District. The ceremony also saw a formal flag raising by the Vicksburg Police Department’s honor guard.

Sheriff Martin Pace said the ceremony, Vicksburg’s second Flag Day celebration, should be repeated every year.

“The flag is the symbol of our nation’s freedom,” Pace said. “Anytime that we have an opportunity to assemble in honor of the flag, we should do so.”