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Spokane holds Flag Day celebration

Onlookers in red, white and blue watched as Spokane’s new Flag Day Parade passed through downtown Saturday.

The Flag Day Parade and Celebration began at the Convention Center and ended with a flag retirement ceremony at Veterans Park.

The procession included veterans organizations, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, reenactment groups, city officials and the 560th Air Force Band.

The flag retirement ceremony after the parade honored Spokane-area World War II veterans from all military branches.

Albert Materi, an 84-year-old World War II veteran, retired a flag in honor of his brother, Alexander Materi, who served as an Army infantryman.

Alexander Materi died in 1944 in France, at age 20. Their brother, Joseph, who lived to 82, also served in the infantry.

“To me, it’s just a very emotional day, and also very sad,” Materi said. “I wish my brother who lost his life with all the others could have been here. This is just in memory of all the good friends I left behind.”

Eight 48-star flags from the World War II era were retired at the ceremony: six honoring the branches of the military during the war – Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Army Air Corps and Merchant Marines – one for the women who supported World War II efforts and one for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of the era.

The fires in which the flags were burned – per the U.S. Flag Code – were started with wood from trees planted by George Washington in the late 1700s.

Speakers at the ceremony included Mayor Mary Verner, Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey, Col. Thomas “Chet” Roshetko of the 92nd Medical Group at Fairchild Air Force Base, and retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Dean Ladd.

John Rowley, 14, with Boy Scout Troop 430, said the solemn ceremony was a chance to offer his respects to those who have sacrificed their lives in service.

“It was a great opportunity to be able to respect and honor the flags and honor those who died and helped secure our freedom today,” he said. “I want to show respect.”

Tim McCandless, chief executive of the Inland Northwest Council, Boy Scouts of America, said the idea for the Flag Day parade and flag retirement ceremony came about a year ago.

“There was nothing formal in Spokane recognizing Flag Day,” McCandless said. “Who better to take the lead than Boy Scouts of America?”

McCandless called the inaugural Flag Day celebration a success.

“In the future, we hope to expand on it,” he said. “That’s our intent. We hope this is going to be something we can continue to grow and make into a real community event.

“It’s not often in today’s world that we see so much respect paid to the American flag and what it stands for and those who fought for it.”