Leaders of a local Boy Scout troop retired several flags in a ceremony held Saturday at Veterans Memorial Park.
Older flags that have become torn, faded or shredded were the ones retired, because they should no longer be flown. “That’s considered disrespectful to fly,” said Angela Eldridge, chairperson for Troop 541 who assisted with the ceremony.
“They’re replaced with a brand new flag out of respect for the U.S. government and the veterans that fought for it,” said Ricky Wood, scoutmaster.
After replacement the old ones must be destroyed with the same respect with which it was handled during its service.
“The proper retirement for flags is to burn them,” said Wood.
The Flag Code U.S. Code Section 176(k) states that “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”
U.S. Congress passed a law in 1968 making it illegal to burn or otherwise knowingly desecrate a U.S. flag, but that statue did not prohibit actions used to dispose of a worn out flag, and the U.S. Supreme Court has held that burning the flag is a protected form of speech.
The scout leaders were clear about the intentions of their own ceremony.
“It’s not a protest.” Eldridge said. “It’s not disrespectful. This particular ceremony is a legal form of retiring a flag.”
The troop, which meets at the Veterans Park office building, became aware of a growing number of flags that needed disposal through their contacts with the veterans.
Learning about proper care and treatment of flags is among the skills taught to scouts, and troops have traditionally been among the groups charged with conducting retirement ceremonies.
There are many different ceremony formats available to follow, some more elaborate than others, the central theme being that the flags be treated in a dignified manner.
It was the first flag retirement ceremony for the troop.
Wood and Eldridge, assisted by Eldridge’s husband, Wayne Eldridge, and son, Ryan Eldridge, first removed the flags from a storage box and set them on a table, making sure each was folded properly.
When the fire was going strong, they cut one flag in half vertically, then along the blue star field edge, leaving three pieces.
They placed the pieces into the fire.
“Blue is for courage, red is for bravery, white is for purity,” Wood announced. “For the veterans that lost their lives in honor of these flags.”
Grommets cut from the corners of the disposed flags had also been placed into the fire.
With the fabric burned away, the grommets will be given to the local veterans, who were invited to attend the ceremony.
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.