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Wednesday, April 21, 2021
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Retirement Ceremony Shows Respect for Flag

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

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

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Boy Scouts, CubbrScouts, Girl Scouts, and their leaders were encouraged to participate and werebrrequested to be in full uniform. Approximately 400 scouts to part in thebrceremony. It was amazing to see so many young men and women in uniform in onebrplace.

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

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

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Each was handed abrfolded flag, placing one hand under the flag and one hand over it. They thenbrmarched to the center of the arena where the bonfire had been laid and lit.brMilitary personnel in their fatigues were lined up on either side of thebrbonfire; the scouts stopped in front of the soldiers. In turn, the Scoutsbrstopped in front of a soldier and handed a flag to that soldier who then turnedbraround, stepped to the edge of the fire and placed the flag on the coals of thebrfire.  After placing the flag on thebrcoals, the soldier stepped back and saluted the flag. This process was repeatedbruntil all the retired from service folded flags were on the fire.

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After the official ceremony ended and after the crowd of aboutbr2,500 people left the arena, another 1,500 flags that arrived late werebrdestroyed. The soldiers maintained a vigil over the fire until all traces ofbrthe flags were destroyed, the fire was let die out, and the ashes will bebrBuried. (Helmick is a Serve Daily contributor.)

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