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Retiring flags with honor

American Legion members and auxiliary perform ceremony in tribute to unserviceable flags

October 25, 2019
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer (apeterson@esthervillenews.net) , Estherville News

By Amy H. Peterson

Staff Writer

Thursday evening was a dry and warm one for October. Perry and Dana Russell started a fire in a designated burn barrel with star cutouts to prepare for the Ceremony for Disposal of Unserviceable Flags as outlined by the 19th National Convention of the American Legion in New York in 1937.

Article Photos

According to the Legion, "The ceremony has been an integral part of American Legion ritual since that date."

The Estherville American Legion is a group that has been resurrected in the last few years. As part of their duty to the community, the Legion, which shares space with the VFW, takes torn, worn and damaged American flags to properly destroy in the ceremony.

"When a flag has served its useful purpose, it should be destroyed, particularly by burning," according to the United States Flag Code.

Legion member Gene Haukoos said whether the flag disposal is carried out by the Legion or by individual citizens, it should be done discreetly so that the act of destruction does not look like a flag-burning protest or desecration of the flag.

Kaden Russell, 12, son of Perry and Dana, wore his cadet uniform while presenting the ceremonial flag, properly folded, for the first disposition of the evening. American Legion members and auxiliary assembled recited the Pledge of Allegiance before placing the flag on the waiting fire. Additional flags several boxes full were also respectfully placed on the fire.

Perry Russell said local residents with flags that need to be retired should turn them into the American Legion Post for retirement at its next ceremony. When should a flag be retired? One misconception is that it needs to be retired as soon as it touch the ground. While keeping the flag aloft and protecting its ends and corners from dragging on the ground is proper, having part of it touch the ground in no way means the flag is automatically doomed.

A flag that has been lightly soiled should be cleaned and inspected for rips and tears. If it's still in acceptable condition, it should be placed back on the flagpole.

The flags retired at Thursday's ceremony may have been used to honor the graves of deceased veterans or flown proudly outside homes and businesses. Some may have once been part of the Avenue of Flags in Library Square and Courthouse Square and over the years have become worn.

 
 
 

 

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