First Sailor to Carry the Navy Flag Returns to Visit Ceremonial Guard

Story Number: NNS090513-08Release Date: 5/13/2009 5:15:00 PM
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By Darren Harrison, Naval District Washington Public Affairs

BETHESDA, Md. (NNS) -- The Navy flag which was first unveiled to the public April 30, 1959 returned to the site of its debut May 6, marking 50th anniversary of the service's flag.

Jim Ronan, a former member of the Navy's Ceremonial Guard, returned to the Washington, D.C., area and stood on the parade ground at Naval Support Facility (NSF) Carderock where he first marched with the flag five decades ago.

"This brings back a lot of memories," Ronan said. "It seems like it was yesterday. I've had a good life but it just seems like it was yesterday."

Ronan, his wife, and shipmate Gordon Drumheller celebrated the occasion.

"I was very honored," Ronan said of being the first to carry the Navy flag. "I couldn't believe that I was chosen to be the Sailor to carry the new Navy flag and I was indeed very honored when the commander came to me and told me I was going to carry it and unveil it to the public."

President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized the Navy flag on April 24, 1959 when he signed Executive Order 10812 following the recommendation of the secretary of the Navy and the approval of the secretary of defense.

"The flag itself is gorgeous," Ronan said. "It's beautiful. We had the old Navy battalion flag which consisted of a solid blue background with a white anchor, and that was it and then when the new Navy flag was incorporated it was just a fantastic work of art.

"I was so very proud to have carried it and am still proud of that flag today."

The visit to NSF Carderock was only part of the trip during which the three watched a presentation by the drill team and stopped by Arlington National Cemetery to watch a full honors funeral. While there, they visited the gravesite of Fleet Adm. William Halsey at whose funeral Ronan and Drumheller performed funeral honors. They also met with the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead.

In addition to performing honors at the funeral of Halsey, Ronan and Drumheller participated in the funerals of Fleet Admirals Ernest J. King and William D. Leahy and were assigned to the arrival of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

"People ask me was I was nervous because I was one of the body bearers for Halsey and Leahy funerals and they were big to-dos," Drumheller said. "And I was telling the commander yesterday that I was not nervous because I was trained, and I did what I was trained to do.

"I didn't think about being nervous; I didn't think about the people around me; I knew I had been trained, and I knew I had a job to do, and we did it."

Both Ronan and Drumheller spoke with members of the current Ceremonial Guard and remarked on how much has changed in the unit since their Navy days.

"The facilities that they have are amazing compared to what we had," Drumheller said. "One of the things that amazed Jim and I the most was going through the laundry room where they have all those washing machines and presses and things like that. We had two washing machines and an ironing board."

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Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Rick West, left, and Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Gary Roughead look over photos from the 1959 U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard.
090505-N-8273J-030 WASHINGTON (May 5, 2009) Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Rick West, left, and Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Gary Roughead look over photos from the 1959 U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard while meeting with former guardsmen Navy Seaman Jim Ronan and Signalman 2nd Class Gordon Drumheller, not pictured. Ronan was the first Sailor to carry the United States Navy flag as we know it. President Eisenhower approved the Navy flag on April 24, 1959, and this year marks its 50th anniversary. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tiffini M. Jones/Released)
May 7, 2009
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