Retiring Old Glory: American Legion pays homage to retired flags with cremation ceremony

Published 4:35 pm Wednesday, June 14, 2017

As flags waved in the summer breeze Wednesday in honor of Flag Day, American Legion Watauga Post 49 took time out of the morning to pay respect to flags that were ready for retirement.
Citizens of all ages, including a 94-year-old United States Military veteran, spent the morning placing retired flags into three separate barrels to be properly disposed of after the retirement ceremony.
“I think it is very important for Americans to respect our flag and our colors,” Rick Walters, Watauga Post 49 Commander, and veteran, said. “One of the things we did this year that kind of facilitated this with the many barrels was setting up the retired flag box in downtown Elizabethton. It has really motivated people to dispose of the flags properly. Days like today, we’re just proud to be an American and have an opportunity to pay respect to the flag with an event like this.”
Walters and Mayor Pro-Tem Bill Carter months ago worked to install the box downtown as a way of reminding citizens to properly dispose of flags once they reach their expiration.
According to the United States Flag Code, Title 4, Section 8K, “the flag, when it is in such a condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem of display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”
Flag retirement ceremonies have been heavily utilized throughout the years to pay tribute to the flag as a dignified way to have one final ceremony for the flag.
With the box providing such an opportunity to the public, Walters and Watauga Post 49 Chaplain Scott Fisher both alluded to the fact that “at least 600” flags were properly disposed of during the ceremony.
Walters also encouraged citizens that have worn flags to properly dispose of them, if they are no longer at the point of being mended.
“Be sure to take the flags down as soon as you can,” Walters said. “We empty it out about once a week or so. Since the car show started back up, we noticed it gets a lot fuller compared to other times of the year. So we’re seeing people at the car show are properly utilizing the box, too. It’s a fantastic spot for it.”
Along with the ceremony at the American Legion, the Elizabethton Kiwanis Club spent the morning hours placing flags outside businesses during their “flag distribution” event to recognize Flag Day. Various businesses, including downtown merchants, took part in the endeavor.

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