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South King County’s 25th Annual Flag Day Celebration honors veterans | Slideshow

King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer and the Federal Way Soroptimists hosted South King County’s 25th Annual Flag Day Celebration on Saturday at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.

For 25 years, this annual celebration has provided South King County community the opportunity to honor current and fallen military personnel, and the flag itself.

Three students read their winning essays about the importance of the United States flag and what it means to them. Fourth grader Caleb Johnson and seventh grader Linnea Johnson, both home school students, and seventh grader Cosette Clum from Sacajawea Middle School, were given awards for their essays.

Staff Sargent Armando Mejia, USA retired, was the keynote speaker. In 2004, he received a Purple Heart and was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge for actions in Operation Iraq Freedom and the Warrior Transition Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He currently serves as fan development international outreach manager for the Seattle Seahawks and coordinates Seahawk player visits to military bases, including Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Mejia spoke about how the military changed his life and the importance of what the flag means to him. He described his struggles early in life, the pride of being a solider, and the connection his name has with the military. Mejia explained the Spanish translation for his name, Armando, translates to “Soldier.”

Major Jeremy Nelson also gave a special address. Nelson spoke about how meaningful the United States flag is to him. He served in Operational Iraqi Freedom until October 2003 as the rear detachment Battalion Commander. He joined the Washington State Army National Guard in April 2001 and currently serves as the 66th Theater Aviation Command Assistant G4.

“Freedom is not free,” said von Reichbauer, who served in the U.S. Army. “And this day gives us the opportunity to honor those who have served in the military and to recognize public service. The American flag represents not just our freedoms at home and abroad … it represents the hopes and dreams of generations yet to come.”

Part of this year’s celebration also honored the legacy of those who have worked over the years to make this annual event a success. Federal Way native Faye Clerget, an early member of Soroptimist International, was recognized for her leadership in organizing Flag Day for many years, including her efforts with the USA Flag City Campaign.

Clerget’s legacy of community service has also extended into the Federal Way business community, advocating for healthcare as a founding board member of St. Francis Hospital, and inspiring those who are ill by playing her harp in patient’s rooms at St. Francis.

Clerget has served as Federal Way Chamber of Commerce Ambassador for more than 18 years, and received the chamber’s first “Joseph M. Martin” Citizen of the Year award in 1987. She and her late husband, Doug Clerget, were named Citizens of the Century by the Federal Way News for their contributions to the community.

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Local students read their award-winning essays at the 25th Annual Flag Day Celebration in South King County in Federal Way on Saturday. Left to right back row, King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer, Major Jeremy Nelson and Armando Mejia. Front row, essay award winners: Caleb Johnson, Linnea Johnson and Cosette Clum.

Special thanks to Bruce Honda for submitting most of the photos featured in the slideshow.

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