By J.R. Pierre and Christopher Dunn
On the Fourth of July, plenty of Patriots will be waving shiny new flags, but those flags may eventually get frayed, faded, and torn. When it is time to retire your old Stars and Stripes, the American Legion is prepared to destroy it in the proper dignified way.
Under the guidance of Flag Retirement Officer Joe Bower, several times throughout the year, including on Flag Day, the local American Legion Post 105 and VFW Post 3650 destroy old flags in burn barrels outside the old Log Cabin in Fayetteville. They host a solemn ceremony with a final salute, a prayer, and the playing of Taps.
At a recent ceremony, there were four 55-gallon barrels and a half-dozen retired servicemen placing the flags into the flames with care. Bowler said that the 700-1,000 flags in the yard had been dropped off over the course of the past few months by residents of Fayette and neighboring counties to be given a proper sendoff.
“This way we can retire them with respect,” smiled Bowler, adding that they step in so people “won’t simply discard or throw them in the trash.”
Passersby can sometimes be confused by what is going on if they’re not familiar with tradition. Starting in 2003, Dave Niebes planned, coordinated, and implemented the start of the Post 105 Flag Retirement Program. In that time, they have properly retired several thousand flags that could not be cleaned and given away. While more modern nylon and polyester flags should be recycled instead of burned because of hazardous gases emitted when they are burned, traditional cloth flags are to be burned, according to United States Flag Code.
Old flags can be deposited in a decommissioned mail drop outside of the Log Cabin for the Legion to burn. Many times, the flags have come with their own story. One came with a long written letter from two local men who found Old Glory discarded among limbs, leaves, and dirt at the Fayette County Recycling Station. One flew it over his house before discarded it properly.
“Never should the symbol of our country, which many have died for and fought to protect, should be thrown out with the trash,” read the letter.”
Another was found cleaning a Florida beach in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.
Should you like to properly retire your old or worn flag respectfully you can drop it off in front of the Log Cabin on 180 S Glynn St., Fayetteville, GA 30214 in the old mailbox out front painted in red, white and blue.
For more information on your local post visit www.americanlegionpost105ga.org.