The strength of the U.S. flag rests not only after Nevada’s statehood became the 36th state during the Civil War but also during major military battles such as the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, which became a major turning point of World War II.
After a bell tolled 10 times Friday morning for the start of this year’s Flag Day, which also coincided with the 244th birthday of the U.S. Army, the chimes softly played “God Bless America.” The 21st annual Flag Day Ceremony sponsored by the Nevada National Guard illustrated the meaning of the U.S. flag both with pieces of local and world history.
Using a natural backdrop of the Nevada Veterans Memorial behind the Capitol, Brig. Gen. William R. Burks, the adjutant general, noted the significance of the flag after Nevada gained admission on Oct. 31, 1864. He called the memorial hallow ground with the remembrance of the World War II battleship USS Nevada and the Battle Born Memorial for the state’s fallen. The 36-star hand-painted American flag that waved over Fort Ruby was brought out of “The Vault” for display.
When troops raised the first flag with 36 stars at the remote outpost that provided watch over the Overland Trail in White Pine County, Burks wondered what the soldiers at time — numbering between 100 to 300 — were thinking.
“Fort Ruby was not an ideal location for most soldiers in the Civil War,” Burks said, adding the small installation gained a reputation as the “Worst Post in the West.” “Most soldiers preferred to be on the East Coast.”
Burks said the 36-star flag increased patriotism and represented the young nation’s ideals even when volunteers manned Fort Ruby after the Civil War. Burks referred to President Ronald Reagan, who spoke at the 100th flag birthday in 1984, as saying, “The ideals for which our flag stands still challenge our nation.” Furthermore, Reagan said, “The flag represents our men and women who fight the enemy.”
While Burks discussed Nevada’s statehood and the symbolism of the flag more than 150 years ago, Sgt. Maj. Jared Kopacki focused on the recent 75th anniversary of Operation Overload or the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. As the Normandy invasion unfolded, Kopacki said 13,000 Army airborne troops parachuted behind enemy lines. Later that morning, more than 57,000 soldiers landed at the numerous beaches, braved enemy fire and then crossed into enemy-held land. For the thousands who died that day, Kopacki said they showed bravery and selfless commitment to this country.
Kopacki also considered it coincidental that on D-Day, the USS Nevada supported the landings at Utah Beach as one of the many allied ships bombing the shore. Over time, Kopacki said the Army mission remains constant to deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars by securing land across “the full spectrum of conflict.”
During his career, Kopacki said he’s heard the older veterans say “never again” when referring to another big war, but he also mentioned the United States’ military stands ready to face future adversaries just like the soldiers, marines and sailors did in 1944.
“Many lessons from D-Day are timeless,” he added.
Arainna Bennett, a KTVN television news anchor, emceed the event, the Nevada Army National Guard color guard presented and retired the colors, the Nevada Air Guard NCO Academy Graduates Association participated in a Five-flag Ceremony recognizing the flags from the colonial days to the current Stars and Stripes. Air Guard Staff. Sgt. Mariah Connell played the Army song on the bagpipes and Spec. Jonnie Blake sung the national anthem.