WHITMAN — The large American flag, folded in the traditional tri-corner way, lay in the fire pit as orange flames singed the threads of the white stars and enveloped the blue union. Soon more were consigned to the pyre.
The Post 22 Sons of the American Legion held its annual Flag Day unserviceable flags ceremony at the post on Saturday, June 14. A handful of veterans gathered in the parking lot to watch the event and wish their Army brethren a happy Army Birthday, also observed on June 14, before SAL Commander John Cameron and Sgt.-at-Arms Donnie Westhaver began the ceremony.
The first flag to be retired was the folded banner that flew outside the Legion hall for the a few years.
“It’s been recommended that our worn, unserviceable colors be fitted for retirement, as they have served our post for many years, but on this great occasion we shall retire them with the respect they deserve.” Cameron said to begin the ceremony.
Westhaver then began the ceremonial inspection of the flag, which had already been deemed too worn and weather damaged to be of further use.
“We have the honor to present for inspection and retirement, the colors which have served for our post for many years,” Westhaver said, handing the flag to the post’s inspection team for examination. After being deemed to faded, damaged an worn to be no of further service, the flag was presented to Cameron for retirement by burning.
After a prayer by the post chaplain, Cameron carried the folded flag to the fire pit and placed it in the flames as the veterans saluted until the fire consumed it.
Other flags, brought in by residents for disposal, were then placed on the fire.
The Ceremony for Disposal of Unserviceable Flags is outlined in Resolution No. 440, passed by the 19th National Convention of The American Legion in New York, Sept. 20-23, 1937, according to the Legion’s website [legion.org/flag/ceremomy]. The ceremony has been an integral part of American Legion ritual since that date.
A set of rules of civilian flag courtesy popularly known as the Flag Code was first formulated by the National Flag Conference meeting in Washington, June 14-15, 1923. The Flag Code was an attempt by prominent patriotic organizations to collect together in one instrument statutes, executive orders, and rules of established custom and usage relating to the U.S. flag. On Dec. 22, 1942, the 77th Congress approved Public Law 829, giving official sanction to most of the provisions of the Flag Code. This public law established the Flag Code in Title 36, U.S. Code, Chapter 10, Sections 173-178, including the Flag Code § 176(k) on disposal of unserviceable flags.
“We are of the opinion that The American Legion’s Ceremony for Disposal of Unserviceable Flags is a dignified tribute to the U.S. flag and to its symbolism,” according to the Legion. “We therefore conclude that this ceremony is both legal and proper, and that it is an effective instrument for promoting enhanced respect for the U.S. flag.”