American Legion and DAR host flag retirement ceremony

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[June 16, 2017]  LINCOLN -  On Wednesday, June 14th, Flag Day, the Lincoln American Legion Post 263 and the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution hosted a flag retirement ceremony outside the Legion Hall on Fifth Street.

The flag retirement ceremony is a solemn and reverent ritual involving the color guard and a multiple step inspection of the flag to be retired by the Legion Commander, Second Vice Commander, First Vice Commander and the Sergeant-at-Arms.

The ritual begins with the color guard standing at attention while the Sergeant-at-Arms presents one folded flag as a representation of all the flags to be retired to the post Commander. He tells the commander that he wishes to present the flags for inspection and proper disposal.

The Commander then orders that the flag be presented to the Second Vice Commander and the First Vice Commander for inspection.

The flag is presented to the Second Vice Commander who inquiries about the where the flags were during their useful lives, and the current condition of all the flags. The Sergeant-at-Arms recounts that the flags “have become faded and worn over the graves of our departed comrades and the soldier, marine, sailor, and airman dead of all our nation’s wars.”

The Sergeant-at-Arms is then ordered to present the flags to the Second Vice Commander who asks, “Have any of these flags served any other purpose?” The Sergeant-at-Arms replies “Some of these flags have been displayed in various public places.”

The flag is once again presented to the Commander who asks for a report from the First and Second Vice Commanders.

The Second Vice Commander responds first saying, “Comrade Commander, since these flags have become unserviceable in a worthy cause, I recommend that they be honorably retired from further service.”

The first Vice Commander also reports: “Comrade Commander, since these flags have become faded and worn in a tribute of service and love, I also recommend that they be fittingly destroyed.”

The Commander then issues the order of retirement and disposal, “A flag may be a flimsy bit of printed gauze or a beautiful banner of finest silk. Its intrinsic value may be trifling or great; but its real value is beyond price, for it is a precious symbol of all that we and our comrades have worked for and lived for, and died for a free nation of free men, true to the faith of the past, devoted to the ideals and practice of justice, freedom, and democracy.

“Let these faded flags of our country be retired and destroyed with respectful and honorable rites.”

The Commander then calls on the Post Chaplain for prayer over the retiring flags. The prayer includes these words, “We thank Thee for our country and its flag, and for the liberty for which it stands. “To clean and purging flame we commit these flags, worn out in worthy service. As they yield their substance to the fire, may Thy holy light spread over us and bring to our hearts renewed devotion to God and Country. Amen.”

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Following the prayer, the Color Guard and Legion volunteers began the disposal of the flags by fire.

As the flags were being placed in the fire, representatives from the DAR, offered small flags to spectators with a history of our flag as well as some select rules of flag etiquette.

Some of the information included in the history of our flag:

The current flag has been used as our nation’s symbol for 56 years. It is the 27th design of the flag, but a new design may be on the horizon. In June of this year, a referendum was passed in Puerto Rico to seek statehood with the United States. If approved, Puerto Rico will become the 51st state in the Union.

Flag Etiquette:

The flag is to be flown from sunrise to sunset and brought inside at dusk. The flag may be flown 24 hours per day during patriotic events and holidays, providing a light shines on the flag during the hours of darkness.

Proper disposal by fire

The flag should be placed on the flames and burned completely. The ashes should be collected and buried. Those present should salute the flag as it is being destroyed. Military and veterans may salute, while civilians should hold their right hand over their heart and the Pledge of Allegiance should be recited by all.

On Wednesday morning, a table held a collection of flags to be retired, but it was only a representation of all the flags the Legion would burn during the day. The American Legion collects flags throughout the year from anyone who wishes to observe the proper retirement and disposal procedure.

Anyone wishing to retire a flag may take it to the Legion at any time. The flags will be stored by the Legion until the next retirement ceremony.

[Nila Smith]

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