As the United States continues to prosecute the War on Terror, across the nation, Americans continue to display their pride and patriotism to a degree not witnessed since the World War II era. Our nation's flag flies boldly from homes, offices, and automobiles. As time passes, however, many of these flags begin to show the ill effects of exposure to wind and weather. As they are replaced, their owners are faced with the dilemma of what to do with them.
The Flag Code states: 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 Flag Code does not actually give specifics on how to destroy the flag. One should use common sense making sure the procedure is in good taste and shows no disrespect for the flag. VFMC Providers nationwide perform a flag retirement ceremony in conjunction with their local: American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of America, City Hall or other patriotic organizations.
The National Flag Foundation recommends the following as the proper ceremonies for retiring and destroying a worn Flag.
Ceremony of Final Tribute
This ceremony should be conducted at a private, non-public location. Only one Flag, representing all those to be destroyed, should be used in the ceremony.
Two color guards should be used at evening retreat, one for the Flag currently in use and a special color guard for the Flag to be permanently retired.
Just before sunset, the Flag that has been flying all day is retired in the normal, ceremonial procedure for the group or site.
The color guard responsible for the Flag receiving the final tribute moves front and center. The leader should present this color guard with the Flag that has been selected for its final tribute and subsequent destruction. The leader then should instruct the color guard to "hoist the colors".
When the Flag has been secured at the top of the pole, the leader comments:
"This Flag has served its nation long and well. It has worn to a condition to which it should no longer be used to represent the nation. This Flag represents all of the Flags collected and being retired from service today. We honor them all as we salute one Flag."
The leader then calls the group to attention, orders a salute, leads the entire group in the "Pledge of Allegiance" and orders the Flag retired by the color guard.
Slowly and ceremoniously, the flag is lowered, then respectfully folded in the customary triangle. The Flag is delivered to the leader and then the group is dismissed.
This concludes the Ceremony of Final Tribute.
Ceremonial Burning of the Flag
This ceremony should be conducted at a private, non-public location.
Fire and Flag Preparation:
The burning of a Flag should take place at a campfire in a ceremony separate from the Ceremony of Final Tribute. The fire must be sizable (preferably having burnt down to a bed of red hot coals to avoid having bits of the Flag being carried off by a roaring fire), yet be of sufficient intensity to ensure complete burning.
Before the ceremony begins, the color guard assigned to the Flag opens up its tri-corner fold and then refolds it in a coffin-shaped rectangle.
When all is ready:
All assemble around the fire. The leader calls the group to attention.
The color guard comes forward and places the Flag on the fire.
All briskly salute.
After the salute, but while still at attention, the leader should conduct a respectful educational program as the Flag burns: e.g. singing of "God Bless America"; offering an inspiring message of the Flag's meaning followed by the "Pledge of Allegiance"; performing a reading about the Flag; reciting the "American's Creed"; etc.
When the Flag is consumed, those assembled, with the exception of a leader and the color guard, should be dismissed. They should be led out in single file and in silence.
The leader and color guard should remain to ensure that the Flag is completely consumed, and to burn additional Flags, if any.
The fire should then be safely extinguished.
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