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Local organizations perform dignified ceremonies to retire U.S. flags

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Any flag bearing the stars and stripes of the United States should not be flown when its condition is no longer fit for display, according to U.S. Flag Code. And, any flag fitting this description should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

That’s timely information to consider because today is Flag Day.

In Bartholomew County, there are multiple options available to assist in suitable flag disposal.

American Legion Post 24, VFW Post 1987, AMVETS Post 509 and all local Boy Scout troops are willing to accept flags from the public.

“Any troop would be willing to accept a flag from anyone that would now be considered disrespectful to fly,” Troop 557 Scoutmaster Thad Hatchett said.

During Troop 557’s flag-disposal ceremony, the participants say the Pledge of Allegiance after they have circled around the fire. The blue field of stars — representing the union of the 50 states — is then cut from the flag and the remainder is torn into strips.

The ceremony continues when each Scout places a piece of the flag on the fire and states a freedom they enjoy. The field of stars is then burned whole on the fire while the troop watches in silence until the flag has been completely burned. The ashes of the flags are collected and are either buried or given to an honor guard member who was present during the event.

“Every military service organization has their own protocol of how to properly dispose of unserviceable U.S. flags,” said Richard Caldwell, commander of the AMVETS Department of Indiana. “A lot of people don’t know how to properly get rid of flags.”

Although each organization’s flag-retirement ceremony differs, most include a presentation of the flags to be burned while words are spoken in tribute.

Bartholomew County Veteran Service Officer Thomas Crawford said the office accepts tattered flags, too. The banners collected by his office are sent to a funeral home to be cremated, and the ashes are provided to the local chapter of the American Legion, where final respects are given to the remains.

Flags in disrepair also were collected by the Veteran Service Office at the annual SALUTE! concert on the lawn of the Bartholomew County Memorial for Veterans during Memorial Day Weekend.

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