Flag Day celebrated at Manatee American Legion Post 24

— The American flag flew at half-staff Tuesday at American Legion Kirby Stewart Post 24 in honor of the Orlando shooting victims.

With the flag flying at its lower position, post members also conducted an emotional and formal flag retirement ceremony in honor of Flag Day, which was Tuesday.

The ceremony at the post on 75th Street West consisted of burning a tattered American flag in the presence of a color guard. There was also a three-gun salute as about 20 Post members and guests stood at attention and saluted.

After the ceremony, many post members said they consider terror such as the shooting in Orlando, an act of war and they would volunteer to go back into the military, even at age 60, 70 and 80, to fight such acts if their country requested their service.

“I think most of our 1,200 members would go in if they called us,” said Post Cmdr. John Rauh.

While it seems certain older military veterans will not be asked to re-enter the U.S. military if action is taken in the future due to age restrictions, the fact nearly every Kirby Stewart man and woman asked Tuesday said they would eagerly go back tells something about what Flag Day means to these veterans, Rauh said.

“I think every single one of our members would be willing to go back to war and fight with no hesitation,” said Post Chaplain Mike Poisson. “ I know I would. I would have to do more running and lifting to get ready.”

Post members Scott Martin and his brother, Les Martin, along with Steve Carrubba, all said they would serve in a minute if needed.

Said Post member John Alderman, “Yeah, I would go.”

“You bet your boots I would go,” said Post Sgt. At Arms Richard Lanois, who served in the U.S. Air Force.

Only Tom Miller, 83, who describes himself as “an old drill sergeant,” said he doesn’t think he could go back to war. Miller has three different types of chronic heart problems but that’s not the reason he won’t re-enlist.

“I frankly don’t think I could re-enlist because my wife is legally blind and I couldn’t go off and leave her,” Miller said.

Post members also confirmed Flag Day is all about one flag — the Stars and Stripes.

“In addition to how beautiful our flag is — it’s the most beautiful flag on Earth — there is not a day that I pass the flag that I do not salute it,” said U.S. Army veteran Ed Padilla, 62, second vice commander at Kirby Stewart. “Tradition is important to us and we will continue this tradition.”

Padilla and other post members said they hope people in Manatee County know displaying an American flag is part of Flag Day.

“They should display the flag in front of their homes and be proud of it, as I do,” Padilla said.

Richard Dymond: 941-745-7072, @RichardDymond