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The Villages
Sunday, April 14, 2024

Old Glory on proud display at Flag Day event at Veterans Memorial Park

The American flag was on proud display Thursday as members of  Veterans’ Memorial Park conducted their ninth annual Flag Day ceremony in The Villages.

With pomp and ceremony, the Veterans Memorial Park Honor Guard demonstrates the proper method of folding an American flag during Thursday’s Flag Day gathering.

“We are committed to educate the public about the significance of the ‘stars and stripes’ as well as its proper etiquette,” explained Richard Simpson, the VMP president.

The program was highlighted by a ‘flag folding ceremony’ by members of the Honor Guard as Dennis Drosendahl described the rituals and meanings of each of the flag’s 13 folds.  These range from honoring the Country to memorializing America’s fallen veterans.  When the process is completed, the folded, triangle-shaped flag commemorates Revolutionary War tri-corn hats such as those worn by seamen who sailed with John Paul Jones.

Earlier, 16-year-old Benjamin Mack-Jackson spoke about his non-profit organization, the World War II History Project.  In three years, he has interviewed 50 veterans and assembled a traveling museum of World War II memorabilia.  

“My goal is to preserve the accomplishments of America’s ‘greatest generation’ and pass on those memories to my generation that doesn’t have the greatest appreciation of history,” Jackson explained.  

Benjamin Mack-Jackson displays part of his traveling museum of World War II memorabilia. He is joined by Villager Florence Johnson, whose Navy WAVE uniform is a featured attraction.

He described the glass-framed, 48-star coffin flag of Frances Chesly who was one of six nurses and 700 other sailors who were killed following a Japanese kamikaze attack of their medical ship the USS Comfort off the coast of Okinawa.

Mack-Jackson, an 11th grader at Lake County Virtual School, plans to earn a doctorate in military history that brings greater opportunities to ‘save the memories of those vets who saved the world.’ 

Veterans proudly display their uniforms during Thursday’s Flag Day ceremony.

His display also featured a mannequin of a Navy WAVE. The uniform had belonged to Villager Florence Johnson who attended the morning program.

“I was in the Navy from 1944 to 1946, and worked in the Washington, D.C. office of the Chief of Naval Operations.  

“I had met Benjamin at an American Legion meeting and was so impressed, I donated my uniform.  I have lots of other items to remind me of the war years,” Johnson said.

Among those watching the pageantry was Bogdan Jakubicki who was wearing his Air Force Chief Master Sergeant’s uniform.

Benjamin Mack-Jackson is greeted by Don Walters. The former Villager served in World War II and fought in Africa, Italy and the Battle of the Bulge.

“I had been in a forced labor camp in my native Poland when it was liberated.  Later, I served in the Polish Guard that enabled me to come to the United States,” the Village of Santo Domingo resident explained.  “I then served in the Air Force from 1952 to 1984.”
The morning concluded with a stirring rendition of ‘God Bless the USA’ by another teenager: 14-year-old Macy Mac.  The former Ocala resident will be a contestant on the television program ‘America’s Got Talent.’ 

This year’s ceremony marked The Veterans’ Memorial Park’s ninth annual commemoration, and continues a nationwide tradition that traces its beginnings to the efforts of a Wisconsin schoolteacher in 1885, who encouraged his students to observe the ‘Flag’s Birthday’ on June, 14 – the anniversary of the official adoption of  the  ‘Flag Resolution of 1777.’

By 1894, schools across the country were conducting similar events.  More than 300,000 children participated in Flag Day celebrations throughout Illinois.

President Woodrow Wilson established June 14 as Flag Day in 1916.  That recognition became an official American holiday in 1949 when President Harry Truman signed legislation designating June 14 as National Flag Day.   

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