Flag ceremony mixes young, old in tribute to country

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 11, 2009

John Kerwin served his country for 25 years, protecting freedom in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam.

During his years of service, first in the U.S. Air Corps then in the U.S. Air Force, he saw many American flags flying, symbolizing the freedom he vowed to protect.

On Saturday, Kerwin saw the flag he spent all those years serving under respectfully retired.

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Copiah-Lincoln Community College Natchez with the help of local Boy Scouts hosted a flag retirement ceremony in which 300 American flags were brought to be burned.

U.S. Flag Code states that “the flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

Kerwin said as the symbol of the United States the flag should always be treated with respect.

“It is an honor and a privilege to see a ceremony of this type today,” he said. “This is what I served for those years to protect.”

Mississippi National Guard veteran Robert Moss said the flag is more than just cloth flapping in the wind.

He said to those who served in the armed forces, he served from 1957 to 1965, the flag is many times a symbol of hope.

“To respect our country, you have to respect our flag,” Moss said.

Moss said the flag makes him think about the people, who before him and after him, served bravely to protect his rights and freedoms as an American.

He said through wars and conflicts the flag has endured as the unwavering symbol of the United States and seeing it treated properly makes him proud to be called a veteran.

“The flag needs to be respected and how people treat it says a lot about them,” Moss said. “I’m proud to have served it.”

Kerwin said, like Moss, seeing the flag made him proud of his service.

“I was carrying on my mission,” Kerwin said of his lengthy military career. “Serving was my calling.”

Kerwin said the flag, and a desire to protect and preserve what it stands for, creates a special bond between active duty and retired military personnel.

“The flag is what we have in common,” he said. “It is the motivator for us.”

Maj. Robert Bradford of Natchez, who has served 19 years in the U.S. Army, brought his son, Quadrick Bradford, 7, to the flag retirement ceremony.

Bradford said seeing a ceremony like the one Saturday will illustrate to his son and other children why military veterans and those serving in active duty are fighting.

“Freedom is not free,” he said.

“We wouldn’t get to fly that flag and have a ceremony like (Saturday’s) if it weren’t for the veterans before me and the soldiers that are overseas right now.

“The flag is something bigger than its actual size. It is what makes us Americans.”

Bradford said watching the flag, whether it is be flying atop a flag pole or being retired, makes him thankful.

“I think about these older veterans and what they gave up to serve and the sacrifices men and women are making today,” Bradford said.