AUBURN | Dozens of veterans, police officers and city officials watched Friday as the American flag in Market Street Park was lowered down from its pole.

As a group of retired veterans worked together to symbolically arrange the flag, with each fold representing a patriotic piece of American history, the crowd watched and waited for a new flag to be raised in its place.

Friday marked the 236th annual Flag Day recognized nationwide, and the Auburn chapter of the Knights of Columbus hosted the city's celebration, beginning just as the bells at St. Mary's Church rang to mark the noon hour.

After the national anthem was performed, the Rev. Frank Lioi of St. Mary's Church spoke about the significance of the flag and why it is important to continue to honor it.

"It's more than just a piece of cloth," he said. "It represents our country and it stands for the sacrifices that have been made to protect our values and ideals."

Among the crowd stood several retired service members, like Air Force veteran Neal Taylor, a life-long Cayuga County resident who spent 16 months in Korea in the 1950s. To veterans such as him who dedicated part of their lives to protecting their country, appreciation of the flag and what it represents is something that is always welcomed.

"I think people are starting to be more conscious of veterans and what they did in order to protect this flag," said Taylor.

City Manager Doug Selby and Mayor Michael Quill also attended the ceremony, standing side by side listening to the patriotic music and the words of remembrance as the flag was folded into the shape of a revolutionary army hat, reminding the crowd of the soldiers who fought to gain freedom centuries ago.

"The flag is the symbol of our country and how everyone has worked together to make this a great nation," said Quill, "and I hope that everyone will take some time from their day today to visit a veterans park or fly a flag in front of their homes to remember."

Staff writer Kelsey Durham can be reached at 282-2237 or kelsey.durham@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @CitizenDurham.

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