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Unserviceable Flags Ceremony held at American Legion Post 853 on Flag Day


Last updated 7/2/2015 at 11:28am

On Sunday, June 14th, the Borrego Springs American Legion Post 853 held their annual flags ceremony. Many members and retired service persons attended the Legion ceremony and shared dinner with friends and veterans.

June 14 was Flag Day. As a patriotic symbol of freedom and justice, the flag of the United States needs to be treated with respect. When a flag is worn and tattered, it should never be just thrown away. There is a formal procedure for the retirement and destruction of an American flag.

The Ceremony for Disposal of Unserviceable Flags has been an integral part of the American Legion ritual.

Traditionally, flag burnings are held on Flag Day. The ceremony was created in 1937 at the 19th National Convention of the American Legion in New York. It includes a retirement and salute of the flags that ends with the ceremonial burning.

According to the National Flag Foundation, in a flag retirement service and ceremony, only one flag should be used, which represents all of the flags to be burned in the service. The ceremony involves two color guards, one for the flag currently in use and a special color guard for the flag to be retired from service.

Just before sunset, the flag, which has been flying all day, is retired in the normal ceremonial procedure for that location or group. During the detailed ceremony the leader states:

"This flag has served its nation well and long. It has worn to a condition in 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. The honor we show here this evening for this one flag, we are showing for all of the flags, even those not physically here."

In the ceremonial burning, the fire is large but preferably burnt to a bed of red hot coals thus avoiding fragments of the flag being carried off by the wind. The color guard opens its tri-corner fold and then refolds the flag in a coffin-shaped rectangle. The veterans and members assemble around the fire where the leader calls the group to attention. The color guard comes forward and places the flag on the fire. The National Flag Foundation recommends singing "God Bless America" followed by an inspiring message of the flag's meaning followed by the "Pledge of Allegiance" and then silence.

When the flag is basically consumed, those assembled, with the exception of the leader and the color guard, are dismissed in single file and leave in silence. The leader of the color guard remains until the flag is completely burned. The fire is then extinguished and the ashes buried.

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