Thick black smoke rolled from the concrete block pit on the American Legion grounds Saturday as one-by-one ragged and faded flags were burned.
“The proper way to retire a flag is by burning it,” Legionnaire Gene Cremeens said, following a brief ceremony marking the placement of the first flags on the pit with the assistance of Girl Scout Troop 29040.
Members of Craig-Harriss American Legion Post 251 had collected hundreds on out-of-service flags over the years and the public brought still more Saturday morning. They stood there in the cool breeze as the Legion Honor Guard fired a 21-gun salute and Taps played.
“I think it went pretty well for the first year. Hopefully, next time it will be more,” Legionnaire Anthony Twardowski said.
The Legion post hopes to do the flag retirement ceremony at least once a year from this point on, he added.
The U.S. Flag Code requires the nation’s banner be allowed to fly or hang free at all times, and warns that it should not be torn, soiled or damaged.
It calls for a flag to be retired when it is “no longer a fitting emblem for display,” but does not specify exactly when, leaving it to common sense.
That same code, however, notes that flags should not be worn as clothing or printed upon anything like napkins or boxes designed for temporary use.
“The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing,” according the Flag Code which calls for a fine and or imprisonment for up to one year for those who desecrate the flag.
Saturday’s ceremony, Legionnaires said, was to ensure the nation’s flags received the proper respect.