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Retirement Ceremony Shows Respect for Flag

Aug 12, 2019 04:34PM ● By Janice Helmick

I have always loved the red, white, and blue flag that represents our country – the land of the free and the brave. I never gave any thought to it becoming torn, faded, or too dirty to represent the United States of America.

However, Congress did and has authorized flags worn beyond repair to be destroyed, preferably by fire in a dignified manner showing respect and reverence. On July 16, a retirement ceremony was held in conjunction with Spanish Fork Fiesta Days at the Spanish Fork Arena. Ed and I were privileged to attend, and Ed documented the event with photos. This was the 21st year of the event in Spanish Fork and the 15th year that Mark Harrison was Chairman of the Flag Retirement Ceremony.

Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, and their leaders were encouraged to participate and were requested to be in full uniform. Approximately 400 scouts to part in the ceremony. It was amazing to see so many young men and women in uniform in one place.

In the hours before the event started, the scouts with the assistance of their leaders and U.S. military staff, 1,500 flags were folded into triangles and placed on tables at the edge of the arena. Simultaneously, a group of military people was organizing small logs for a large fire at a pit in the center of the arena. While this was going on, more Flags were arriving. Then it was time to begin.

At the beginning of the ceremony, a flag was raised, a bugler played Taps, canons gave a twenty-one-gun salute, and the audience repeated the Pledge of Allegiance. The military band played “God Bless America.” An Army Chaplin led us in prayer, and Mar Harrison told us the importance of the flag retirement ceremony. We were asked to be quiet and reverent during the ceremony. At the proper time, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts were called forward to form two lines.

Each was handed a folded flag, placing one hand under the flag and one hand over it. They then marched to the center of the arena where the bonfire had been laid and lit. Military personnel in their fatigues were lined up on either side of the bonfire; the scouts stopped in front of the soldiers. In turn, the Scouts stopped in front of a soldier and handed a flag to that soldier who then turned around, stepped to the edge of the fire and placed the flag on the coals of the fire.  After placing the flag on the coals, the soldier stepped back and saluted the flag. This process was repeated until all the retired from service folded flags were on the fire.

After the official ceremony ended and after the crowd of about 2,500 people left the arena, another 1,500 flags that arrived late were destroyed. The soldiers maintained a vigil over the fire until all traces of the flags were destroyed, the fire was let die out, and the ashes will be Buried. (Helmick is a Serve Daily contributor.)