Tears flowed during the Independence Day ceremony as a surprised Salem native and Pearl Harbor survivor, Charles Jensen, was presented with a US flag that was flown over the USS Arizona on the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“You tricked me,” Jensen said, as he was taken by surprise by the presentation.
Jensen was overwhelmed by the special recognition and the flag presented by US Army veteran Michael Pike and accompanying certificate from Congressman Jason Smith during the Thursday evening ceremony at the Dent County Commons.
Jensen received a standing ovation from the crowd and a certificate of Proclamation from State Rep. Jeff Pogue.
The Pearl Harbor survivor was honored for his service to his country during the ceremony and presentation by Lt. General (Ret) W.G. “Jerry” Boykin as Boykin spoke about our nation’s history and its intertwining with the US flag, a symbol of freedom and hope to the world in times of peace and war.
The day began with a Firecracker 5K Run to benefit the LovePack Backpack program that provides weekend meals for Dent County school children. The 5K was sponsored by the Salem Area Community Betterment Association and the Salem United Methodist Church. Family Fun Day also offered a variety of activities, food and fun at the Dent County Commons. The fireworks display rounded out the special celebration at dark.
First Baptist Church provided free food and activities on the church grounds prior to the parade.
Salem Area Chamber of Commerce Parade Chairman George LaJoie said Gen. Boykin’s speeches were inspiring.
“It was truly an honor to have (Boykin) serve as our Grand Marshall. It required a lot of hard work to make this happen, and we appreciate the work by organizer Frank DeVenuto and the chamber board and volunteers for Gen. Boykin’s visit,” LaJoie said. “Every year the attendance at the parade grows, and we couldn't be prouder of the success we have had. We are looking forward to another outstanding parade in December.”
Independence Day Parade winners include Sonic Drive In for their float in the commercial category and Salem Cub Scouts and Boy Scout Unit 404 for their flag-decorated fishing boat in the non-commercial category. Winners received a $100 cash prize.
Chamber director Genie Zakrzewski said the weather was perfect for the parade.
“There were 50 entries and about 43 horses participating in the parade,” Zakrzewski said. “The highlight was having Lt. General Jerry Boykin share his patriotism and love of our country and flag with the community.
“The chamber of commerce and the City of Salem appreciate the generous support from sponsors who supported the general’s appearance and everyone who took the time to participate by having a float, a vehicle, a walking delegation and horses. We hope all who attended enjoyed their day at the parade and Commons for the general’s presentation and the outstanding fireworks.”
The chamber director said plans are already under way for the Christmas Parade of Lights.
Chamber President Scott Roberts reiterated General Boykin’s comments.
“It was a historic moment when members of the Continental Congress drafted the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress declared the people of America independent from the British colonies,” he said. “It was the moment of truth all Americans had waited for.”
There are a few copies of the General’s book, “Never Surrender,” signed by Gen. Boykin, available at the Visitors Center/Chamber Office, 200 S Main. There is a cost.
DeVenuto, who spear-headed Gen. Boykin’s visit, said that about 50 pastors attended the July 4 pastor’s prayer breakfast First Baptist Church. They were treated to some excellent food in addition to listening to the retired Gen. Boykin talk about the courage the Founding Fathers displayed when they stood united against tyranny. He said that many of them had some theological training in college or seminary, but all understood Judeo-Christian values were fundamental to the success of the nation.
The general said that same courage is lacking in our government and church and that only those who display this same courage will turn around the moral and social collapse within our country’s borders. There was about 30 minutes for questions and answers discussing issues such as the recent Supreme Court decision concerning DOMA, terrorism, persecution of the church and how to restore honor and glory to our country. In addition to some great food prepared and served by volunteers, who also decorated the church fellowship hall.
DeVenuto said the events leading up to the general’s speech at The Commons were inspiring, heart-warming and memorable, from Troop Unit 404 rendering honors to the US Flag while Natalie Leathers sang the National Anthem, to watching military veterans conducting a flag-folding ceremony with a US flag flown over the USS Arizona on the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.