Continuing its town's tradition of being one of the most patriotic communities in the region, and following the club's motto of "We serve," the Summit Hill Lions Club has announced plans to resurrect an American flag program that in the past honored members of the community for their service to our country.
Only this time around, the club wants to open the honorary and memorial program to all Summit Hill residents, as well as former residents, regardless of military service.
In the 1980s, the late Wesley Hiles, then a borough councilman and a staunch U.S. Navy veteran, initiated a flag program whereby American flags flew at five or six borough sites in memory or honor of veterans. Some years later, after Hiles' passing, the Summit Hill Historical Society restarted the program, which was maintained for a year or two before being discontinued.
"We (the Lions club members) decided this would be a great project to honor and memorialize town residents," noted Dr. Kenneth Vermillion, longtime president of the club who has since relocated to Florida with his wife, Roxanne, but continues to be involved in the Summit Hill club's activities.
"In the past, families donated the flags of veterans to Wesley for use in the program, and he had a wonderful system in place. He tagged each flag and had an unique filing system in his garage,m where he stored the flags in bins to keep track of them. But we decided to modify that approach. The Lions purchased their own flag and will use it for everyone."
Joseph O'Gurek Jr., 570-645-5171, will head up the program. Residents can call him to request the flag fly in memory or honor of town residents. "We plan to do this from Memorial Day to Veterans Day, and it does not have to be in honor or memory of a veteran. The club wants to recognize any resident because we realize there are many others who deserve it," he said.
Vermillion said when the historical society launched the program, its members flew "casket flags" in member of "service people." But, he said, "It became a hassle with issues like torn flags and things like that."
The Lions said they are committed to purchasing new flags if the ones being used become worn and torn. Meanwhile, a special flag that is massive in size will be utilized on holidays.
According to Kathy Crampsie, club secretary, "Everyone remembers the program as a really nice thing, when people from town were honored and recognized. We just thought it would be great to resurrect it as a service project for the community."
O'Gurek said requests for the flag tributes will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis. "We would like to honor everyone's request. It's a great way to remember our townspeople," he said, adding that the club will announce the honorary or memorial tribute weekly in the TIMES NEWS.
Judy Midas, club president, said the first tribute will begin this coming week, with the honor going to Leonard "Lenny" Ogozalek, a Vietnam Era veteran who has been selected by the Summit Hill Memorial Day Parade Committee to serve as grand marshal of the 2013 event to be held Monday.
"The flag will fly for one week in honor of Lenny," she said, adding, "We thought it was appropriate to start off with honoring our grand marshal."
The club has solicited assistance from the borough, whose workers will handle the hanging and taking down of the flags.
Vermillion said the Lions have talked to William "Kevin" O'Donnell, commander of the Davis-Lawton-Yurko-Breslin-Bevich American Legion Post 316, Summit Hill, to preliminarily discuss a ceremony at the end of each season to end the program. He said, "The program will run through Veterans Day and we talked to Kevin about the idea of having a flag-burning ceremony to close it out and to properly dispose of flags that will become not useable. He said that shouldn't be a problem, so, it seems like an appropriate activity to culminate the program around Veterans Day."