For Ralph Cavaliere, Flag Day is just as important of holiday as Independence Day, Memorial Day or Veterans Day.
The 87-year-old World War II veteran came to the United States in 1928 and always remembers the first time he saw the American flag. “I wasn’t born in this country,” said Cavaliere, who was in the Army as a member of a B-24 Liberator squadron. “This flag means everything. It represents freedom, it represents opportunity and it watches over us.”
Cavaliere was among the 150 residents who gathered at the anual Pause for the Pledge Event held at the American Legion VFW Post 1066 Thursday evening in Massapequa to celebrate Flag Day.
The day marks the birthday of the US flag. Although it is not recognized as a federal holiday, many U.S. Veterans across the nation have set aside June 14 to honor the stars and stripes.
According to former 1066 post commander Jack Hipp, this is the fifth year to have such a ceremony at the VFW honor the flag. “It’s a patriotic day honoring the symbol of this country,” said Hipp, who served in the Navy from 1956-1962. “This flag represents the best of America—honor, respect, courage.”
Current post commander Dennis Dietrich said the essence of America can be found on the flag. “It’s the heart of our country,” he explained. “Everything on the flag represents something key. The red signifies the blood shed for our freedom. The stars represent the different states in the Union. And the blue represents loyalty. Put it all together and it means everything.”
Bob Bertram served was a draftee in the Army from 1966-1967 and said this is one of the most important holidays in American history because the flag is so symbolic for many reasons. “This flag means so much to me and it’s sad that people sometimes forget,” he said. “I lost a lot of friends [in the Vietnam War] and I don’t ever want to forget the sacrifice they made. That’s what we fight for and that’s what the flag represents.”
Members of Post 1066 were joined by members of the community such as the Boys Scouts, Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts in the ceremony. Local officials included Town of Oyster Bay Clerk Steve Labriola, Councilman Joseph Muscarella, Town Attorney Leonard Genova, Legislator Peter Schmitt and Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, who led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.