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American flags properly retired during ceremony

Over 150 American flags, burned and their ashes buried, honorably and respectfully retired

RETIRING FLAGS – Retired veterans, Jim Blankenship (left) and Jerry Lovett, prepare to officially retire an American flag during a flag retirement ceremony last Wednesday. The proper way to retire a flag is to burn it, then bury the ashes. Humboldt Exchange Club, Gibson County Carl Perkins Center, Humboldt Fire Department, Humboldt Historical Society and the Humboldt Public Library sponsored the event. Over 150 American flags were retired during the ceremony.

by Ariel McRae & Danny Wade

Humboldtans gathered at the Humboldt Public Library parking lot to properly retire and honor Old Glory last Wednesday, October 18. The American flags brought by the community were placed into a fire bin in order to retire of them in the honorable manner.

The Humboldt Exchange Club, Gibson County Carl Perkins Center, Humboldt Fire Department, Humboldt Historical Society and the Humboldt Public Library sponsored the event.

The program opened with a prayer from Humboldt Public Library Director John Blankenship. Next, the crowd recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Vietnam veterans helped in the retirement of the flags by handing the flags to veterans, community members and Humboldt firefighters to place into the fire.

Members of the VFW assisted in the retirement ceremony. There was a table full of tattered, faded and worn out flags awaiting their final resting place. There were well over 150 flags that had been collected to be retired. One by one, people took a flag from the table, walked to the burning barrel and solemnly dropped the flags into the flames. Some veterans gave a military salute after dropping the flag into the barrel.

After the ceremony concluded, Danny Jackson played “Taps” on the bugle. The veterans saluted during Taps, while the civilians placed their hands on their hearts. Once the flags had completely burned, the ashes were gathered and buried.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the official retirement ceremony was a resolution passed by the American Legion in 1937.
In the resolution it states, “The approved method of disposing of unserviceable flags has long been that they be destroyed by burning. The U.S. flag is considered a sacred symbol so burning it in an undignified manner constitutes discretion of the flag and the country.”

In the flag code for the United States, it states, “The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.”

This is why ceremonies are held in a very specific manner.

Flags also don’t have to be burned in order to properly dispose of them. Some people can take a flag and bury it folded correctly in a dignified box. Flags can also be recycled. This option is common for flags made out of synthetic materials that can be hazardous if burned. The U.S. Department of Defense also states that sometimes nonprofit groups careful cut embroidered stars out of the flags and give them to veterans. They often leave a note with them that reminds the veteran their service will not be forgotten.

At the event, they remained true to proper procedure. Old Glory was thoroughly respected and properly honored by Humboldtans during the retirement ceremony.

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