Flag Day is celebrated nationally on June 14th each year and has been since 1877, 100 years after the first flag was authorized by the Second Continental Congress.
For Yeadon Borough, Flag Day has additional meaning since one of its native sons, William Kerr, was instrumental in having the Stars and Stripes memorialized by a national day of recognition.
Last Saturday, Flag Day 2014, Yeadon celebrated the occasion with an annual parade followed by a naturalization ceremony in which 23 citizens from 15 countries took their oaths of citizenship and became American citizens.
The new citizens came from Albania, Bangladesh, Burma, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom. Evangelia Klapakis, a field officer for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s Philadelphia office, and an immigrant herself, presided over the ceremony.
Hand-held flags that were distributed throughout the gathering of about 200 people including local dignitaries were provided by the Chapel of the Good Sheppard.
“For all but one of the last nine years, the church has always participated in the parade,” said Joy Hepkins, the pastor’s wife and, herself, a South African immigrant. Hepkins’ husband, Rohan, is church pastor and mayor of Yeadon Borough, who, in remarks to the crowd, said that he, too, was an immigrant born in Jamaica, raised in Britain and naturalized as an American citizen.
Mrs. Hepkins said she met her husband in the United States and that they both work for the borough. “It all worked out for us,” she exclaimed. “We are living the American Dream.”
Men On A Mission, a local Town Watch group active in the borough since May 2007, according to founder and President Terry McGirth, was recognized for its work by state Rep. Ronald G. Waters (D-191).
Yeadon police sergeant and former Marine, Michael Sarro, who was wounded during active military service in Afghanistan, was presented a citation from state Reps. Margo Davidson (D-164), of Upper Darby and Waters; both represent parts of the borough. The day’s events culminated with a fireworks display.
The Stars and Stripes that became the American flag came into being on June 14, 1777, authorized by the Second Continental Congress and first flew in a Flag Day celebration in Hartford, Connecticut in 1861, during the first summer of the Civil War.
The first national observance of Flag Day was 100 years later.
By the mid 1890’s the observance of Flag Day was popular. Mayors and governors began to issue proclamations in their jurisdictions to celebrate this event and Pennsylvania became the first state to recognize it.
In the years that followed, public sentiment for a national Flag Day observance greatly intensified. Numerous patriotic societies and veterans groups became identified with the Flag Day movement. Since their main objective was to stimulate patriotism among the young, schools were the first to become involved in flag activities.
In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation calling for a nationwide observance of Flag Day, but it wasn’t until 1949 that Congress made it a permanent observance.
Yeadon’s Kerr, who headed the Pennsylvania Flag Day celebration for 50 years, lived to witness the event’s celebration signed into law by President Harry Truman.