“When a flag is so tattered that it no longer fits to serve as a symbol of the United States, it should be destroyed in a dignified manner, preferably by burning.” – United States Flag Code
Howard Quinn lays a used flag that is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of the United States on the fire during the ceremony.
Last Saturday, in a ceremony conducted with reverence in the parking lot of American Legion Post 184 in Palm, and in front of memorials honoring fallen soldiers and the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the veterans of the Upper Perkiomen Valley Joint Veterans Council treated nearly 3,000 of the tattered and worn symbols of the nation that they pledged to protect with the same dignity and respect as the day they took the oath to defend it.
Title 4, Chapter 1, subsection 8 of the United States Code outlines the proper etiquette for displaying and caring for our nation’s flag. Among the 11 rules for showing proper respect for “Old Glory” is the proper way to retire the flag of the United States. This is a federal law.
It isn’t just a flag, but a symbol of the United States as a government of the people, by the people, for the people, whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic, a sovereign nation of 50 sovereign states established upon the principles of freedom, equality, justice and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.
The veterans care for thousands of flags that mark the graves of those who served in many area cemeteries. Each spring, new flags are placed on the graves and weathered ones are collected each fall. In addition the vets have red, white and blue receptacles located at the VFW Post, 401 Main St., Red Hill, and the American Legion Post 184, 744 Gravel Pike, Palm, for the public to drop off their worn flags for proper retiring.
Each year they hold a solemn ceremony to retire the flags. The ceremony, held by the group that consists of veterans from American Legion Post 184, Tri-Boro Detachment #568 Marine Corps League and the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States Post 5954, is a formal show of respect.
The ceremony consisted of three different inspection stations manned by the 2nd vice commander, 1st vice commander and the commander. A three-man detail led by the sergeant-at-arms marched to each of the three stations while an honor guard stood by.
At the first station, the sergeant-at-arms announced, “We present these unserviceable flags for your inspection … These flags have become faded and worn over the graves of our departed comrades and the dead soldiers, sailors and airmen of our nation’s wars.”
When approved and sent to the 1st vice commander, the sergeant-at-arms repeats his request and is asked, “Have any of these flags served any other purpose?” He is informed that some of the flags have been displayed in various public places.
The final inspection was made by American Legion Post 184 Commander Cary Anderson who recited: “Comrades, we have presented here, these flags of our country, which have been inspected and condemned as unserviceable. They have reached their present state in a proper service of tribute, memory and love.
“A flag may be a flimsy bit of printed gauze or a beautiful banner of finest silk. Its intrinsic value may be trifling or great; but it’s real value is beyond price, for it is a precious symbol of all that we and our comrades have worked for and lived for and died for – a free nation of free men and women, true to the faith of the past, devoted to the ideals and practice of justice, freedom and democracy.
“Let these faded flags of our country be retired and destroyed with respectful and honorable rites and their places be taken by bright new flags of the same size and kind, and let no grave of our soldier, sailor or airman dead be un-honored and unmarked.”
After a prayer by Chaplain Harold Schultz, “To the Colors” was played and the flags received their proper retirement.