The stage of the auditorium at Rock Hill High School was decked out with 38 flags Sunday afternoon – half of which were U.S. flags, the other half representing military and civic groups throughout the state.
Even the sides of the stage and the speaker’s podium were covered in the Stars and Stripes for the fourth annual Massing of the Colors – a ceremony celebrating the flag as well as the contributions of military service members, both living and deceased.
The ceremony came a day after National Armed Forces Day and a week before Memorial Day, May 26.
“It’s not strictly military,” said Walter Sealy, 78, a retired U.S. Navy submariner and a speaker at the event. “All of this pageantry – it’s an opportunity for all of us to renew our allegiance.”
Sealy called the event a “pep rally for the flag without the pom poms,” but also a way for citizens to reconnect with their patriotism. He is a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars.
His brother, Richard W. Sealy, recited “Old Glory,” a poem from the perspective of the U.S. flag: “I am saluted, I am respected, I am revered – I am loved, and I am feared.”
Eighteen local groups from Rock Hill, York and Chester attended, as well as groups from as far away as Gaffney and Columbia. Each presented its “colors” on stage – one American flag and one flag representing the organization.
Groups included local police agencies such as the Rock Hill Police Department, military groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2889, and civic organizations such as Cub Scout Pack 132. The event was hosted by the local chapter of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry and Rock Hill High School’s Air Force Junior ROTC group.
The ceremony opened with a salute by bagpipers, and an a capella quartet performed renditions of American standards such as “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful.”
The audience included World War II-era veterans as well as families and friends of current and former service members.
Arla Carter, 63, of Chester, said she particularly enjoyed the speakers at the event and wished more people had attended. Her husband served 23 years in the Air Force and was one of the event organizers.
Carter plans to spend Memorial Day decorating the burial sites of veterans at a local cemetery. “We can’t do enough for the folks who fought for our country,” she said.