A Flag’s Service
Written by: 1SG (Ret.) Christopher Watts
On March 8th, 2023, the Bettye Davis East Anchorage JROTC held its 10th annual Flag Retirement Ceremony. The significance of this ceremony to our program is as significant as the flag is to our nation. Every part of the flag holds great meaning and works together in serving our great nation. The Cadet staff recited the meaning of the flag’s colors as well as the importance of each of the symbols our flag is made up of. The recitals were emotionally moving and inspirational.
The ceremony began with a presentation of the colors and the singing of the National Anthem by East senior Mathias Vaivai, accompanied by East’s Choir Teacher, Melissa Fischer. The battalion and guests stood in honor of the colors as the National Anthem was sung. Honored guest speaker Doctor James L. Jones (Msgt Air Force Retired) graced the battalion with a speech on patriotism and pride in our country, adding to the significance of the ceremony. Guests in attendance also included Principal Rodger Nicolls, Principal Janeen Wilkins, and Anchorage School District Representative Marty Lang. The flags were then presented and prepared for retirement by chosen individuals from the drill team. The idea is that flags that have served the nation and are no longer suitable for display were retired by the Disposal Team or “Burn Detail” led by second-year instructor, Sergeant First Class Anthony Gann. Johnny Cash’s “Ragged Old Flag” played as part of the ceremonial unveiling portion of the ceremony. About 50 U.S. and Alaska State Flags were retired at this year’s ceremony.
During this year’s ceremony, the battalion performed a change of command and promotion. The battalion colors were passed from promoted Cadet Colonel Erin Gates to Cadet Major Elise Stone representing the handover of the authority and responsibility that is the role of Battalion Commander of the Thunderbird Battalion. Cadet Erin Gates’s remarkable performance as Battalion Commander and her personal accomplishments outside of the classroom is impressive.
Attendees also included Cadet Gates’s parents, Cherish Pu’u (former Cadet Battalion Commander), the Commander of American Legion Post 29, Charles Boring along with the historian for post 29. Together they presented the JROTC Program with a Post donation check for the traveling drill team which is headed for the Golden Bear Western Regionals in California.
Top photo caption: Noteworthy Attendees included Guest Speaker Dr. James Jones Next to Maj Erskine and special guest Charles Boring American Legion Post 29 Commander (Photo credit: 1SG (Ret.) Christopher Watts)