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VALPARAISO — Rain and lightning may have forced the Flag Day ceremony indoors, but that did not dampen the patriotic spirit inside Veterans of Foreign Wars Hayes Post 988 Wednesday evening.

Leo M. Simon was not deterred by the weather, as the U.S. Navy veteran of the Korean War accepted a folded flag from the VFW Post. For Simon, as with others, Flag Day is not merely about a piece of cloth as much as it honors those men and women who have defended the national colors.

“I wouldn’t go to any other country,” said Simon, 89.

For this Valparaiso resident, Flag Day is for “all the people that are gone. I try to fight for veterans who are gone.”

The flag ceremony, which started outdoors, featured comments by veterans from two wars: Bob Wilhelm, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who saw combat action in Vietnam, and Ryan Kominakis, Post 988 adjutant who served in Afghanistan.

As Wilhelm noted, the flag has been “our country’s rally symbol throughout history.”

The stars and stripes, Wilhelm added, represent not only the military personnel who served this nation, but also the benevolent service the U.S. has provided around the globe.

“The flag is you, it’s me, it’s all Americans,” Wilhelm said, adding that the flag should be celebrated every day. “People who have no respect for the flag have no respect for themselves.”

Historically, the Continental Congress adopted the flag on June 14, 1777. President Woodrow Wilson established Flag Day in 1916, but it was not until 1949, when President Harry S. Truman declared the observance an official holiday.

Bruce Steffen, a Vietnam veteran and honor guard member, said Flag Day honors “the symbol of our country. That’s why I served — to protect it. So many people have died for that flag.”

Kominakis said when he sees the flag, he recalls the buddies who did not make it back alive from Afghanistan. He also recalls fun times with his wife and children.

The flag, Kominakis said, “represents citizens — each one of you.”

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