Former astronaut heads Elks Lodge Flag Day observance


Brigadier Gen. Robert L. Stewart, a former U.S. astronaut, addresses the crowd at the Cullman Elks Lodge Wednesday evening. / Andrew Cryer

CULLMAN – The Cullman Elks Lodge held its annual Flag Day observance ceremony this week, featuring special guest speaker Brigadier Gen. Robert L. Stewart, a former U.S. astronaut. Also in attendance was Joel Vickery, president of the Alabama Elks Association.

The ceremony began as Col. Ken Brown lead the presentation of the nation’s flags, from the Revolutionary War period to the modern flag. Shortly after the presentation of flags, and many patriotic songs later, Stewart began his speech focusing on what he interprets the American flag to symbolize and stand for.

“This is a symbol of our union. The American flag has been a symbol of liberty,” said Stewart. Stewarts’ remarks quickly prompted a standing ovation from those in attendance.

Stewart, who was a U.S. Army helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War, was the first astronaut from the U.S. Army. He flew two subsequent shuttle missions and was one of two astronauts who were the first to fly in space untethered from a spacecraft.

Closing the ceremony, Vickery took the microphone to express his gratitude to the Cullman Lodge and to address the act of domestic terrorism that occurred Wednesday afternoon in Alexandria, Virginia, when  House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana was shot during a congressional baseball practice.

“Cullman Lodge is just one lodge in the state of Alabama that has a very strong hold in the community, in the city of Cullman and the state. My motto as state president is ‘united as one, together we can.’ If we don’t come together as one individual and work together, our nation will go to hell in a handbasket.”  

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