Flag Retirement Ceremony
Boy Scouts Learning the Correct Method
A Solemn Moment
Recently I accidentally witnessed a flag retirement ceremony performed by an area Boy Scout Troop. I call it an "accidental witnessing" because I just happened to be at an antique shop GC5Vintage (www.gc5vintage.com) that is attached to the vacant lot where the ceremony took place. The shop owner called his wife and me out to hear the bagpipes, and we were both so moved by the moaning chords of Amazing Grace issuing forth from the pipes that we ventured further to see what was happening.
The Boy Scouts and their Masters stood in a solemn circle around a mound of American flags that had served their time on flag poles around the area and were no longer suitable for service. About a dozen campfires, into which the flags would be retired, waited to be lighted. With hands over hearts and a patriotic salute, the Scouts and bystanders recited The Pledge of Allegiance. Then with all the dignity the event deserved, campfires were lit and flags were ceremoniously put to rest.
Passing on a Tradition
In order for the event not to be seen as a flag burning, Scout Masters taught the young men before them how to fold each flag in half over the flame, then fold each again as the flame consumed the material. Scouts, maintaining their solemnity and dignity, then took over the task. The campfires were still burning when I left, suggesting that the ceremony would go on into the night. But I read later that the final step in a flag retirement ceremony is to bury the ashes of the retired flags-- A fitting and dignified end.
An Emotional Change
I had never before thought about what happens to worn out American flags, and I probably would not have attended the ceremony had I not been right next door. But I’m glad I was there. And I’m glad I had the experience. I don’t think I’ll be able to look at the flag now without hearing the haunting chords of Amazing Grace in my mind. And I won’t be able to see it wave without a feeling sacredness accompanying each flap.
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