Bleed red, white and blue: Flag Day ceremony takes place at Dunkirk Lighthouse

A small crowd gathered at the Dunkirk Historical Lighthouse Friday evening for a ceremony honoring America’s stars and stripes.

The Flag Day ceremony, held by the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Dunkirk Lodge #922, highlighted the significant virtues of the nation’s flag: charity, justice, brotherly love and fidelity.

Scott Bonafede, Exalted Ruler of the Order of Elks, who led the ceremony, said those virtues are also the primary principles of the Order.

“By them, we teach love of country and our countrymen, and meld them to our American way of life,” Bonafede said. “An Elk is an American citizen who lives for his or her country, and is ready to die for it.”

Retired U.S. Coast Guard Commander George Burns III provided a few remarks for the service. He said that America is facing a growing problem in the form of apathy toward the country’s beloved flag.

“(Some people) have no idea what the flag is, how it came to be, what the symbols on the flag mean or why it’s important,” he said. “Life today is not John Kennedy asking ‘what we can do for our country,’ but a significant percentage of our population asking, and expecting, everything from their country.”

Burns pointed out that no representatives of city government were in attendance at the ceremony, demonstrating his point of “a great tide of apathy rising in our nation.”

He continued his speech by listing various soldiers from the local area who have been killed while on active duty, including Michael Andalora, a machinist’s mate, second class, from Dunkirk. Andalora was killed when the LST he served on was sunk in the English Channel on June 9, 1944, during the invasion of Normandy in World War II. Among many others, Burns also remembered Lieutenant Frederick Gollnitz of Fredonia, who was killed February 8, 1943, when his B-25 went down over Gabez Bay in North Africa.

“Many of these fine men, many who were really just boys, never made it back to live full lives, but their sacrifices ensured the rest of us could,” Burns said. “That is just one more thing to reflect on when we look at our great flag. Let us strive to end the apathy that is destroying our country.”

A brief history of the American flag was given during the Flag Day ceremony, as well. As each stage of the flag was explained, the Knights of Columbus placed one in front of the stage and saluted it. Various flags that were placed included the yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” banner, as well as several versions of the current flag with different patterns for the stars, representing points in American history in which there were fewer states.

People in attendance at the ceremony paid homage to the flag by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing “God Bless America” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The Dunkirk High School Band was on hand as well to perform a patriotic melody of songs.

Toward the end of the ceremony, the Frank Acquavia Memorial American Legion Post #1344 properly disposed of retired American flags by burning them. Shots rang out from the firing squad and taps were played as the flags were disposed of. The Dunkirk Joint Veterans Council provided these services.

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