Mayor Joseph Polisena and Cub Scout Troop 20 held a joint event Saturday morning to unveil an American flag repository recently installed outside of the Johnston Municipal Court.
Several disabled veterans, local dignitaries, Scouts, parents and community members were packed into the courthouse chambers as Polisena offered brief remarks, followed by the official ceremony outside. The mayor said he chose to deliver his speech inside because of the chilly, blustery autumn weather.
The repository – which was Northeast Auto Body’s Gary Salzillo appropriately painted red, white and blue – was provided with assistance from retired Lt. Col. Jeannie Vachon and Postmaster Janet LePage. Those who are interested in donating or retiring a flag may stop by the courthouse and place it inside the box.
“This is truly a special day for our town,” Polisena said. “We unveiled a really important repository box [for] our most recognized, respected icon, and that’s the American flag. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people have died for our flag, and there are those who continue to fight for our flag and what it really means to this great country. They are currently in harm’s way, some of these people, as I stand before you today.”
Polisena said Democratic Town Committee Chairman Richard DelFino Jr. initially proposed the concept, and the mayor said the committee’s members “are true believers and followers of our American flag.”
“We must never forget why we have the freedoms we have,” Polisena said. “The freedoms that we have allow those people to disrespect the flag, allow them to do so legally, so they have to think about that. Not that we condone that, by the way. So at least now Johnston will have a proper place for Old Glory to go … as we continue to respect our flag and what it stands for.”
Polisena took a moment to talk about his father, who served in the Korean War at a very young age. He has a photo of him in his military uniform displayed in his office, and noted that he never wanted to discuss his service.
He also recalled how frustrated his father would become when the war was referred to as a “conflict.”
“It would really tick him off,” Polisena said. “He said it was a war. ‘I was being shot at, it wasn’t a conflict. A conflict is when your mother makes a roast on Sunday and not macaroni, that’s a conflict.’ He went at a very, very young age. He signed up and he fought for his country. He never mentioned it.”
Once Polisena concluded his address, attendees went outside as Scout Nathaniel Reagan placed the first flag in the repository. Shortly after, several other people placed their flags in the box.
“We must always put a human face on the flag,” Polisena said earlier in the event. “That face is the men and women who died for our great country, fighting, representing our flag. We must always recognize that we don't just celebrate holidays like the Fourth of July or Veterans Day, but every day – those are important holidays, don't get me wrong – but we should respect the flag and support the flag every single day. As I said, let us not forget those who paid the ultimate price.”
Polisena, the veterans and the Scouts gathered for a photo before those on hand recessed to the chambers for refreshments.
“At a time when some have a total disrespect or lack of respect for our flag, there are those like us who are here today who have inherent love for the American flag and what it stands for,” the mayor said. “It stands for the freedom that, for those who respect it, we know what it’s all about.”