American flags lined U.S. 930 in front of New Haven City Hall on Sunday for the retirement of the flag that had been flying there since last year and the raising of its replacement. The ceremony also kicked off a partnership with Stars for Our Troops, an organization that repurposes the stars from retired flags to present to veterans and first responders.

The ceremony marked Flag Day, which celebrates the adoption of the U.S. flag by the Continental Congress in 1777.

New Havn Mayor Steve McMichael opened the event by saying that “as Americans, we need to celebrate our common beliefs and values, and create dialogue on issues that we may not understand, or disagree. For united we stand, divided we fall.” He continued with a brief history of the flag and an explanation of the meaning of the colors: white for purity and innocence, red for valor and hardiness and blue for vigilance, perseverance and justice. “As we raise our flag, as we stand and salute or place our hands over our hearts, let us renew our sacred pledge that we will forever remain one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” he said.

Yancy "Big Mac" McLaughlin, head of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, took the mic to explain the Stars for Our Troops organization which had its beginnings in 2005. “The flags that are collected today,” he said, “will have the embroidered stars removed and placed in a plastic envelope along with a small printed message for veterans and first responders as a reminder that they are not forgotten. The striped portion of the flags will be properly be disposed of.”

CVMA raises money for veterans and is starting a chapter in Fort Wayne. McLaughlin, a veteran of Desert Storm, who also makes the star remembrances, brought 1,000 to give to individuals wanting to send one to a veteran or first responder. After the flag ceremony, members of CVMA rode around the corner to the Clothes for Joes store on Broadway where they were going to donate clothing and tour the new store.

Chris Crabtree, senior adviser in Congressman Jim Banks' office, led the assembled crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Retired U.S. Army sergeant Scott Mabee of New Haven led the color guard composed of New Haven Fire Department officers Dan Basting, Jon Stauffer and Mike Walker. Mabee, who served in Iraq, Bosnia and Afghanistan, retired recently after 20 years. He grew up in New Haven, attended Emanuel Lutheran Elementary and graduated from Concordia Lutheran High School.

Mayor McMichael reminded the audience that the City would be having a Fourth of July parade and community picnic at Schnelker Park on Independence Day. Flag collection will continue through the July 4 celebration. People can drop off old flags at City Hall, New Haven Community Center or bring them to Schnelker Park on July 4. Only embroidered flags are acceptable.

Trumpeter Bob Bruce closed the Flag Day celebration by playing reveille.

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