By Fran Patrick
A chance to bestow our gratitude to the men and women who have kept our country safe.
A “Veteran” — whether on active duty, discharged, retired or reserve, is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check for an amount of, up to and including, their life. This selfless service reminds us, in the words of Harry S. Truman, of “our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country that can never be repaid.”
“The Fraternity has always recognized the importance of Veterans,” says RWB Emmett Bryson, but we “have never done so in such a way that truly puts the spotlight on what they have done for us. The presentation accomplishes this and provides a permanent reminder of that recognition.”
MWB Rick W. Kaeser, Jr. and RWB Emmett Bryson created, what is now used across the state of Missouri in all Veteran Flag presentations, a script thatbrings in Masonic elements. As Masons we are “banded together to make our communities better,” shares Rick “because we share the laudable goal to be true to our government, and just to our country, it’s no surprise that Masons, as a whole, tend to be very patriotic.” The presentation, he continues “is one of the most meaningful ceremonies we perform.” And, as the script reminds us, the “tokens of appreciation” capture the essence of the message of gratitude and understanding of the sacrifice made, and promises as a Fraternity, the “extraordinary service to your country … your love, loyalty, and, zealous sense of duty … will not be forgotten.” The Fraternity, Rick says “welcomes the chance to thank their military Brothers for their service to our country on behalf of all of us.”
This year, as Ambassadors were able to resume the Flag Ceremony Presentations, nearly 300 presentations have been made to date across the state of Missouri in Lodges and Chapters. And, while the recognition is not asked for, it resonates for differing reasons. For members who are not Veterans, it gives them the opportunity to pay tribute to those who have sacrificed so much. And, to the Veterans, it provides further confirmation that the sacrifices they have made, no matter the extent of those sacrifices, has not gone unnoticed.
Poplar Bluff Lodge No. 209 has made over 60 presentations so far this year, including members from Puxico Lodge No. 596, Grandin Lodge No. 579, Four Mile Lodge No. 212, Greenville Lodge No.107, Lakeville Lodge No. 589, and Poplar Bluff Chapter #344.
It was during these presentations that RWB Jonce Chidister presided over Sister Kathy Kennedy’s flag presentation. Accompanied by her son, Brother Doug Kennedy, Poplar Bluff No. 209 member, Sister Kathy Kennedy, a 97- year old Navy WWII Veteran and Eastern Star member, was recognized for her service.
Sister Kennedy, was stationed in Memphis, TN during World War II as a nurse in the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES), a division of the U.S. Navy created during World War II to free up male personnel for sea duty. It was here she met her husband in the chow line and, as they say, the rest was history. At the end of the war they married and, as her son retells they “got to the state line and he asked her ‘Where do you want to go?’” The couple found their way to Poplar Bluff in 1948, and built strong Masonic and local community connections. “Dad worked for the VA and served the local Lodge (Poplar Bluff No. 209), and held roles in both regional and district areas. Mom was active in the Order of the Eastern Star,” tells son Doug Kennedy, also a member of Poplar Bluff Lodge.
Fast forward to this past summer, and the opportunity for a Lodge, and a Fraternity to say thank you to Sister Kennedy for her service. The family were proud to see both the military and Masonic worlds come together to honor their mother. The ceremony definitely was a “very special effort to recognize not only her life’s service, but all the Veterans who have served,” Doug shares. “It was a very nice ceremony and Mom was made to feel center of attention.”
“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country that can never be repaid.”
— Harry S. Truman
The presentation ceremony to honor our Masonic Veterans is more than a presentation of a flag, it is a moment to publicly honor individuals who have shown us the meaning of this selfless act, and, as Truman reminds us, “they have earned our undying gratitude.”
When asked if there is a personal moment that resonates with him, Emmett shared that the moment in the ceremony when the Veteran is given a chance to speak truly shows the impact of the moment.
“Whether they give a long speech or simply state their branch, rank, and years of service, they do it with pride … but most swell up with at least one tear. It makes them proud,” shares Emmett.
It is humbling to be able to stand at the altar, in front of family members, like the Kennedy’s and recognize this amazing, selfless commitment that one person has made. And whether the ceremony be in their Lodge or Chapter or in their own home, it truly impacts those who are being recognized. “What a wonderful tribute to [my husband] as a Mason and as a Veteran!” tells a spouse of a summer Veteran Flag Presentation. “When he saw the flag, he brightened and said, ‘That’s the Masonic symbol, and I’m a Mason!’”
Rick’s hope is that those in attendance of a ceremony, “are left with a sense of pride for their country and a renewed gratitude for the men and women who have kept it safe for over 200 years.”
And, in the busyness of our day to day lives, we continue to take a moment to recognize and thank those who have given so freely their service, so we may live with the freedoms we enjoy for the next 200 years.
Lodges and Chapters interested in holding a flag presentation for their veterans may contact Michelle Phillippe at firstname.lastname@example.org.