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Updated Monday, June 13, 2011 8:55 PM

Flag retirement gives honorable end for national symbol



As the new U.S. Flag reached the top of the pole on Sunday outside the American Legion Post in Denison, the wind grabbed it blowing out the wrinkles and welcoming the flag to its new post. It was given a salute, ending a 30-minute flag retirement ceremony.

While brief, the ceremony was thick with tradition, symbolism and deep respect for the Stars and Stripes, especially by ceremony participants, many who fought protect to it.

The ceremony included members from The American Legion Simmons-Hardwicke Post 29 in Sherman and Wilson-Pattillo Post 62 in Denison; The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2772 in Sherman, Post 2773 in Denison and Post 7873 in Pottsboro; AMVETS Post 47 in Sherman; and The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 973 in Sherman.

"When our flags have outlived there usefulness ... there's always a proper way of disposal," said Larry Harding, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2772 in Sherman. That method is dictated by the U.S. Flag Code, which outlines the proper method to respect, display and dispose of the flag.

"The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning," the code states.

It was the method Sunday's ceremony organizers followed, adding thought and adoration to each precise step. As the ceremony began, members of the Honor Guard hoisted a worn flag onto the pole in front of the American Legion post. It was given a final salute and then retired. The stars, symbolizing the union of the 50 states, were cut from the stripes.

Each piece was buried separately. The stripes represent the 13 original colonies: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island.

Each piece also represented various values or significant historical moments that were read as participants placed the pieces in the fire: "The 13 stripes stand for the 13 original colonies." "The white stands for purity." "The red stands for courage." "Give me liberty or give me death" (the famous quotation of Founding Father Patrick Henry). "One if by land, two if by sea" (referring to the number of lanterns that were to signal where the British were coming from).

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America" (the preamble to the U.S. Constitution).

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" (the preamble of the Declaration of Independence).

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," and "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press" (the first two clauses of the First Amendment).

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal" (the first words of President Abraham Lincoln's Gettsburg Address).

"One nation under God." "Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country" (the famous words from President John F. Kennedy's inaugural address). "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" (the famous quote of astronaut Neil Armstrong as he takes his first step on the moon.

Finally, as the National Anthem was played, the new flag made its way up the pole. But even after the ceremony was over, participants continued to the monitor the flames until all the flags' remnants were ashes and the ashes were safely buried.

"It's honoring the flag," Harding said. "It's a tribute to (the flag), its service."

Corrected on June 14, 2011
: An earlier version of this article was in error in naming The American Legion Post in Denison.

Comments ... 3 found!

Old Glory : 8/12/2011
It may seem sad, but to do a flag this way is honorable. A flag means a lot to a soldier, and they gave their flag a proper burial. Most people look at a flag and just think its a symbol of just America, when it means so much more than that. Each stripe, color, and star mean something different. Even then, a flag means something different to every person who sees it. I wish I could have seen this tradition in action!

Spc. H. Whitney

usa flag : 7/4/2011
just cannot see burning a flag, i don't care how old it is. seems so sad.


respect for our flag : 6/15/2011
According to paragraph 7 each stripe is "buried" separately. That is news to me. There's nothing like getting it right to show respect!
A Whitesboro Grandmother

Mrs. Webb
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