Burning the Flag for Love

Members of the Winchester American Legion Post disposed of many American Flags during their annual ceremony at their summer festival. The ceremony is quite moving and follows Public Law 93-344, known as the Federal Flag Code, which states, “the flag, when it is in such condition that is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” The act does not list the procedures, however most Veterans organizations have procedures for the correct disposal. Resolution No. 440, passed by the 19th National Convention of the American Legion in New York, Sept 20-23, 1937 provides specific guidelines.

The post assembles with their members and the Seargeant-at-Arms presents the unserviceable Flage for inspection and disposal. The Commander requires the detail to bring the flags forward for inspection. In the questioning of the damage the Sergeant-at-Arms states, “These Flags have become faded and worn over the graves of our departed comrades and the Soldier, Marine, Sailor, and Airman dead of all our nation’s wars.”

The commander asks, “Have any of these Flags served any other purpose?” And the traditional response is, “Some of these Flags have been displayed in various public places.”

After many steps of etiquette and inspection by the First Vice-Commander and Commander it is then recommended the Flags be destroyed. “Comrade Commander, since these Flags have become faded and worn in a tribute of service and love, I also recommend that they be fittingly destroyed.”

Commander: “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 its 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, 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 or sailor dead be unhonored and unmarked. Sergeant-at-Arms, assemble the Color Guard, escort the detail bearing the Flags and destroy these Flags by burning. The members shall stand at attention.”

The Color Guard forms, the chaplain prays, “Almighty God, Captain of all hosts and Commander over all, bless and consecrate this present hour.

We thank Thee for our Country and its Flag, and for the liberty for which it stands. “To clean and purging flame we commit these Flags, worn out in worthy service. As they yield their substance to the fire, may Thy Holy Light spread over us and bring to our hearts renewed devotion to God and Country. Amen.” The members salute and the flag is burned. Bugles play, grown men cry, silence falls over the group. The fitting disposal of the Nation’s most recognizable sign by a group of Veterans who have dedicated their life to the upholding our freedoms.

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