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July 11, 2014

Cullman Elks Lodge holds flag retirement ceremony

Iraq War veteran William White returned to Cullman with the Stars and Stripes in tow. White, a Navy veteran, had presented the Cullman Elks Lodge with an American flag from his tour of duty during the Iraq War, and on Wednesday evening, he was back to retrieve the flag in a retirement ceremony at the Lodge.

Randy McGraw also fought in the Iraq War. The Army veteran assisted White in lowering the old and raising the new flags. McGraw, a Purple Heart recipient, was wounded while fighting insurgents in Somalia in 2003. Now the commander of the Cullman VFW post, McGraw is active with veterans programs locally. He is one of three in North Alabama who volunteer as peer mentors for the Wounded Warrior Project.

The flag retirement ceremony was just one part of the veterans appreciation banquet put on at the Cullman Elks Lodge. Gwen Parker, Exalted Ruler of the Cullman Elks Club, addressed a crowd of about 60 veterans and visitors to start the program.

“Whether you served one day, one year or 30 years, many of you made the conscious decision to volunteer your life...to be part of the greater whole; to don the uniform of your service and serve in your nation’s military,” Parker said.

Parker led the audience in recognizing the veterans in attendance, and shared a video recognizing veterans.

Johanna Chambers of the Cullman County Office of Veterans Affairs also addressed the group, sharing information on benefits and services available to veterans.

After the flag ceremony, the group was treated to a free meal by the Cullman Elks.

The retired flag that once flew over Iraq will soon be put in a shadowbox display at the Cullman Elks Lodge, Parker said.

The veterans banquet is just one of a number of programs that the Elks offer nationwide. In addition to veteran recognition, the Elks offer grants and programs such as their Adopt-a-Veteran and Army of Hope programs.

For more information on the Cullman Elks Lodge and its veterans programs, call Gwen Parker at 256-347-1545.

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