West Orange holds solemn ceremony honoring Old Glory

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — West Orange Fire Department Chief Anthony Vecchio welcomed the community to West Orange Fire Headquarters on Flag Day, June 14. The annual ceremony, canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, returned with the traditional reverence befitting the American flag. 

Glennon/Sayers VFW Post No. 376 Commander Kim Ameli spoke about the proper protocol for flag retirement, which was part of the event. Several VFW members were in attendance as Ameli fondly recalled the late post’s commander Ralph Panciello, who died earlier this year. Panciello’s family listened attentively as Ameli recalled Panciello’s past patriotic service to the community. Panciello was a decorated World War II veteran.

Proper flag etiquette dictates when a flag is worn and no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner. An awaiting free-standing fire pit stood at the ready. Vecchio ordered the ceremonial flag flying at headquarters retired. After it was lowered, it was folded as if at a graveside ceremony for a deceased veteran. Capt. Gabe Gatto subsequently held the folded flag at his chest as he marched in military style to the burning fire pit for final disposition. 

Councilwoman Michelle Casalino captured the crowd’s sentiments of the solemn event, saying, “This is just another event that demonstrates West Orange’s deep commitment to our veterans. We are reminded today about their profound patriotism that underscores the reason why they serve. We must be mindful in properly respecting the flag for which they are willing to give their lives.” 

Councilwoman Tammy Williams, also in attendance, said that it is important to honor the American flag and all it represents. 

“The flag in a large sense represents our entire community and is often easy to overlook,” Williams said. “This day brings us together to remember why Americans live free and are willing to die defending the principals of freedom for all.”

Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the United States. The first national observance for Flag Day was held on June 14, 1877.

Photos and Text Courtesy of Joseph Fagan