ROCHESTER — On Flag Day, June 14, three Marines marched out of the rectory at Church of the Annunciation with a folded flag. About 35 people watched in silence as the Marines approached the flagpole, then slowly raised the flag into the air.
The bystanders applauded as the flag began to wave. However, even as she applauded, Karen Riordan’s eyes welled up.
“My son touched it,” she said of the flag. “It’s a great thing.”
Riordan is a parishioner of St. Andrew’s Church, sister parish to Church of the Annunciation. Her 22-year-old son, Daniel J. Riordan, is a lance corporal in the Marine Corps Reserve who is serving at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa. The camp is a key operations center in the war against anti-American terrorists in both Africa and the Middle East, according to several reports. And the flag Riordan was eyeing with tears flew March 20 over Camp Lemonier.
Riordan handed out yellow ribbons to those who gathered for the flag-raising ceremony.
“He’s so proud of what he’s doing there,” she said of her son.
She added that while she’s worried about his safety, she’s not concerned about his character.
“There’s nothing better than to be able to talk about your son like this,” she said of Daniel, an Aquinas Institute graduate.
The Marines who raised the flag — Cpl. John Lombardi, Lance Cpl. Nathan Clark and Cpl. Charles Ellis — all served at Camp Lemonier. In an e-mail interview, Daniel Riordan said he appreciated the gesture the flag-raising embodied.
“Its a awesome feeling,” he wrote from Camp Lemonier. “Without the support back home not much would get accomplished in the global war on terrorism.”
He added that his Catholic faith has sustained him in Djibouti.
“It helps keep me in a positive mental mindset,” he wrote, adding: “Part of being Catholic is loving one another … not just your own back home and my brothers here, but everyone in this world … Being able to have had the opportunity to help people in such a poor and Third World country has enlightened my faith in many ways.”
While studying history at Cazenovia College, Riordan joined the Marine Reserve not long after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, his mother said. The lance corporal was called to active duty earlier this year, she added.
Richard Riordan, Daniel’s father, was in the Navy and served in Vietnam.
”I’m proud, not only of my son, it’s the whole country,” Riordan said.
He added that the family is expecting Daniel home in September, when he will then finish his senior year at Cazenovia.
Fred and Josie Migliore, Annunciation parishioners, said they were glad they attended the flag-raising ceremony June 14.
“You don’t see something like this very often,” said Fred, who served as a medic during the Korean War. Seeing the Marines in uniform “brought back a lot of memories,” he added.
Kenneth J. Cummings, a retired Marine master sergeant and an Annunciation parishioner, said most of his fellow parishioners know someone in the military. He added that the flag symbolizes freedom, something that means more to those who have served in the military than to those who have not.
“Any time I see Old Glory going up, it chokes me up,” he said.
Contains reporting by Brianna Farnand.