Flags flew in honor of each state and many countries
April 2, 2006
By James Ramage

The United States has had many different flags in its proud history.

But rarely, if ever, have they been displayed and paraded together before a local audience like they were Saturday, at the Massing of the Colors held at Airline High School’s football stadium, in Bossier City.

Each state’s flag, as well as numerous foreign country, U.S. military and historical flags, joined the multitude of star-spangled banners before an estimated 1,000 people gathered in the bleachers under a sun-bathed sky. The audience also was treated to an extremely rare sight: the sky-blue-and-white of the only National Medal of Honor flag not given to a recipient.

"It’s really touching," Lyle Hoefler said of the Medal of Honor flag. "I think it’s really great."

Hoefler, 53, of Bossier City, said the flags had a very powerful effect on him, as they appeared to have had with most of those in attendance. He said the many different kinds of Confederate and Revolutionary War flags are an important part of American history that people needed to see.

"It’s just remarkable to see the history coming back through all of these flags," Hoefler said. "It’s very powerful … leaves a lump in your throat."

Among the 250 flags, or so, on display were those for the Republican and Democratic parties, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, those representing the different U.S. armed forces as well as fraternal and civic groups. Veterans in attendance saluted the prisoners of war and missing in action flags, as well as the many that marked the foreign wars America fought.

Strangely, the Japanese naval flag from World War II was passed off as the "flag of Japan," while the red Soviet flag of the defunct U.S.S.R. was called the "flag of Russia."

Motorcycles and a bagpipe rendition of "Amazing Grace" launched the flag celebration. At the stadium’s north end, two fire engines with ladders extended and crossed draped a gigantic star-spangled banner.

One hour into the ceremony, a B-52 bomber from the 93rd Bomb Squadron, 917th Wing, flew directly over the stadium.

A very quiet crowd stood solemnly for the playing of "Taps," only to be jolted to attention by a sudden cannon shot that followed immediately.

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Steve dePyssler was pleased with the turnout for the event, as well as how the event went. He said the massing would become a yearly celebration.

The flags would be kept at Barksdale Air Force Base, he added.

"This is the largest massing of flags ever in the Ark-La-Tex," dePyssler said.

The audience also was treated to 1,250 red, white and blue balloons that were released into the air as the event ended. They hovered and dispersed, almost like a giant American flag fragmenting into hundreds of floating bubbles.

Shreveporter Florence Gorum said she really liked the Louisiana Republic flag the state once flew after it seceded from the Union in 1861, but before it joined the Confederacy. She found its darker color tones and design unique.

"That’s just another symbol of the country; they showed all the others," she said. "All the different flags stood for what they were fighting for at one time."

Like Hoefler, she found the Medal of Honor flag powerful. She said she flies an American flag at her home every day, and genuinely enjoyed the many different flags on display for the event.

"I spent six years overseas, in Austria and Germany," Gorum said. "So, I appreciate these flags."

©The Times
April 2, 2006

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