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mrkstvns

The "Right Way" to retire U.S. Flag...

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I'm a media junkie and while prowling the news this morning, came across the following story about Boy Scouts retiring flags:
https://www.nj.com/hunterdon/2019/05/boy-scout-troop-200-retires-us-flags-in-lebanon-borough.html

One line in that story particularly jumped out at me:

Local vexillologist and former Troop 200 Scoutmaster Larry Friend shared his extensive knowledge about the American flag and its history and explained the role of the Color Guard, the proper way to retire flags and flag etiquette.

Now,  every flag burning that I've ever attended was done just a bit differently from the others.  My understanding was always that there isn't really any such thing as a "proper way to retire flags" ---- as long as your flag retirement  is respectful, it's a good ceremony. 

Is there actually a "proper way" to retire flags?

What are the elements of a "proper" flag burning ceremony?

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So - The United States Flag Code, Title 4, Section 8k states-“The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem of display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

Pretty much that is about the only instruction.  There are many ways to do this is a dignified manner, and that interpretation (dignified manner) would be up to the unit and those performing the retirement

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1 hour ago, mrkstvns said:

Local vexillologist

 

Wasn't that a running gag on Big Bang Theory and Sheldon and his "Fun With Flags" Youtube shows??

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1 hour ago, Jameson76 said:

So - The United States Flag Code, Title 4, Section 8k states-“The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem of display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

Pretty much that is about the only instruction.  There are many ways to do this is a dignified manner, and that interpretation (dignified manner) would be up to the unit and those performing the retirement

My Troop retires around 200 flags a year.  The above is correct.  The only thing that we absolutely do not do is refer to the flag retirement as a flag burning.    We different people bring us a flag to be retired and tell us that they have a flag to be burned we tell them that we see a US Flag burning as a protest against our great country therefore we do not burn flags but retire the Flag by fire.  

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2 hours ago, mrkstvns said:

Is there actually a "proper way" to retire flags?

What are the elements of a "proper" flag burning ceremony?

When I had my Cubs den, I was curious of the flag protocols of other countries. I did not find much beyond fly flag in proper orientation. Nothing about folding, disposal. Do other countries have written flag codes? Hopefully the upcoming World Jamboree will shed light. 

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8 minutes ago, RememberSchiff said:

 

When I had my Cubs den, I was curious of the flag protocols of other countries. I did not find much beyond fly flag in proper orientation. Nothing about folding, disposal. Do other countries have written flag codes? Hopefully the upcoming World Jamboree will shed light. 

I think most countries retire the flag through incineration (eg. Mexico, Argentina, UK). The hard part about finding flag protocol for other countries is that it's usually in another language. Argentina has a pretty robust flag code. Google translate butchers the text but you can get the idea: https://translate.google.com.ar/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.gob.gba.gov.ar/legislacion/legislacion/l-14438.html&prev=search. Trivia: they applaud the flag instead of saluting it when it passes.

If I remember correctly, the US flag folding pattern is by custom, not by law.

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9 minutes ago, Saltface said:

I think most countries retire the flag through incineration (eg. Mexico, Argentina, UK). The hard part about finding flag protocol for other countries is that it's usually in another language. Argentina has a pretty robust flag code. Google translate butchers the text but you can get the idea: https://translate.google.com.ar/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.gob.gba.gov.ar/legislacion/legislacion/l-14438.html&prev=search. Trivia: they applaud the flag instead of saluting it when it passes.

If I remember correctly, the US flag folding pattern is by custom, not by law.

Interesting for disposal, by law,  the national flag of Argentina is to be cut in a certain way before incinerated. 

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The other thing to remember when retiring flags, particularly with younger scouts, is the hazard presented by melting and dripping synthetic fabrics.

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11 hours ago, Saltface said:

I think most countries retire the flag through incineration (eg. Mexico, Argentina, UK).

I've been a leader for over 25 years now, and I've never seen a ceremonial UK flag disposed of or destroyed, but your right, the official flag protocol is burning, or cutting up.

Most of us are just trying to make sure we put the UK flag up the right way, so we're not telling other ships we're in distress!

 

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7 hours ago, ianwilkins said:

Most of us are just trying to make sure we put the UK flag up the right way, so we're not telling other ships we're in distress!

 

Been there, done that!

I raised and lower the flag at my high school, some 50 years ago.  this was on a military base, with all weather flags that flew regardless of rain, snow or sleet.  On one occasion, it was very cold, windy, and sleeting.  I sprinted out, ran the flag up the pole, and sprinted back inside.  Not long afterward, I was called up to the office, only to find the Military Police there, wanting to know why the flag was flying upside down.  One of my more embarrassing moments at that school.  I was also sent out the way I was, no jacket on, to correct it.

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My COR has a nice big jar of grommets in a place of honor at his home.  It got to the point that he would cut off the corners and wire the grommets together to aid in recovery after the ceremony.

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        Flag etiquette and flag retirement is so wrapped up with Patriotism that it is easy to offend someone.  Most people have never read the flag code and understand what it actually says. Most people base what they believe the " proper, correct " way to display or retire a flag on what they learned in the military or past experiences.  My troop frequently hosts retirement ceremonies with the local VFW. I make sure to have a copy of the code with me when we do this.  For ease of retirement we usually cut the edge of flag with the grommets on it off and thread that onto a heavy wire loop. We burn this loop with all the ends on it at once and it makes recovering the grommets from the ash easier after the ceremony. We then cut the blue field out of the flag    and cut the strips into two following the bottom edge of the blue field.   We usually retire 300-400 flags at a time. Cutting them down his way make it easy to make sure the fire consumes the flag.  We will take one flag and cut the stripes into individual stripes and use that flag for the formal part of the ceremony with the VFW members and troop. After the formal ceremony we then get down to the retirement of the rest of the flags and that can take several hours of feeding the flags into the fire.  At the next troop meeting we will then clean out the fire pit and bury the ashes of the flags.    

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Thank you, Petey091, thee speaks my mind. 

I was shown/taught a version by my IOLS leader.  He would take a old flag or two or three, depending on the size of our class, , cut out the Union,  tear the strips apart so each attendee might have a significant piece to hold.  We never mentioned the grommets, some flags don't have such. The Unions were handed to IOLS Staff or someone "special" (for whatever reason).  At the evening campfire, after the skits and songs,  he would speak about his Italian father and his coming to America,  his service in WW2, and then invite folks to add their piece of the flag to the fire and , if they were so moved, speak of their connection to America.  This always elicited many moving stories. "It is, after all, only a colorful scrap of cloth. It is we who give it history and significance."

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22 hours ago, Petey091 said:

 We usually retire 300-400 flags at a time.

Ok, seriously, in the interests of international knowledge exchange, what are you doing to your flags? On what basis are flags retired? If they touch the ground? The slightest speck of dirt? Are they use once only? 300 at a time? I'm taken aback.

Ian

 

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