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'The flag means freedom'

By BY SONNY LONG
June 14, 2011 at 1:14 a.m.
Updated June 17, 2011 at 1:17 a.m.

Orby Ledbetter holds the POW/MIA flag during the Flag Day ceremony at VFW Hall in Victoria. Ledbetter was held as a prisoner of war in Italy during World War II.

VICTORIA COUNTY VETERANS COUNCIL

The Victoria County Veterans Council was established in 1945. Member organizations include the American Legion, Catholic War Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Marine Corps League, Military Order of the World Wars, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Vietnam Veterans of America, Korean War Veterans and American Ex-prisoners of War.

Even in a German prison camp, American soldiers made sure they had a flag.

Orby Ledbetter, a prisoner of war in Italy for 19 months during World War II, said that the Stars and Stripes had a presence there.

"We made it out of strips of cloth - blue, white, red," said Ledbetter, who turns 90 in July, following a Flag Day ceremony Tuesday. "It wasn't perfect but it symbolized the flag to us. Even the Germans respected it."

During the ceremony, members of the Victoria County Veterans Council raised the flag as its honorary color guard stood at attention. Air Force veteran Troy Howard, commander of the council, led the Pledge of Allegiance followed by Ray Goodwin's stirring rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner."

Gary Moses, a former U.S. history teacher, addressed the gathering about the history of the flag and of Flag Day.

The flag design was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed June 14 as Flag Day, but Congress did not officially establish the day as a national observance until 1949, Moses related.

Moses also talked about what the flag meant to him and to others, concluding with, "The flag means freedom. Freedom is everything that is important to a nation. What do you feel when you see the flag? Pride. Respect. Love. Honor. Devotion. Patriotism.

"For the men and women who have served and are serving our country, the flag means all that to them," Moses continued. "Let us always honor and respect what our flag means and represents."

Other veterans in attendance also shared their opinions on the flag.

Frank Lott, 77, an Army veteran wounded in Korea, is concerned that adults and children alike are losing respect for the flag.

Ceremonies like the one Tuesday help remind people to respect the flag, said Lott, who takes part in a lot of military funeral services as a member of the Veterans Council color guard,

"That was a good speech, too," he said. "What he said is true.

Eddie Vigus, an Air Force veteran who served mostly at Foster Field during the Korean War, agreed.

"I think it's a great honor to be a part of a ceremony honoring the flag," he said. "More people should recognize it."

Vigus, who never saw combat, added that the flag symbolized for him that someone had his back and he would do his best not to let them down.

The Flag Day ceremony was at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4146, 2001 Lova Drive.

Corrected June 16, 2011.

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