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Owl62

Flag Retirement Ceremonies

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I was not sure whether to post this here or in the Camping forum but chose this forum.

 

Flag retirement ceremonies are fairly common in the BSA. I have participated in a number of them. To me, it is a duty and most in Scouting like to participate in these retirement.

 

I was wondering what opinions exist out there on how to actually retire a U.S. Flag.

 

The U.S. Flag code simply says that when a flag is no longer fit for display, it should be destroyed in a dignified manner, preferably by burning.

 

The units I have been with, do a simple, dignified ceremony, sometimes reciting the Pledge of Allegience, a poem, or a song, and the Flag is placed as gently a possible in the fire, sometime folded, sometimes not.

 

One practice that I have seen, and am greatly opposed to and distressed by is the cutting up of a Flag prior to burning. The rationale normally given, is once a Flag is cut up, it is no longer a Flag, and can therefore be burned. The U.S. Flag Code already permits burning of Flags no longer fit for display and says nothing about cutting up a Flag, it just says to burn it. To me cutting up a U.S. Flag is disrepectful and amounts to desecration. I won't participate in it. Not only that but it usually increases the time involved in actually destroying the flag. To me, cutting up a Flag is just unnecessary. This may be splitting hairs, but that is how I feel.

 

Before I turn over a Flag for retirement, I always ask about the conduct of the ceremony and will not give a Flag to anyone who will cut it up prior to burning. Instead I save the Flag for another ceremony.

 

I know this may start a real controversy, but I would like to hear the opinions of others on this topic.

 

Please lets not fight over this topic. We are all entitled to our opinions.

 

Thanks.

 

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You can find a very nice ceremomy on the national site for the American Legion. It is one I have seen on several occasions and that the troop has used a few times. I will warn you it also cuts the stripes off from the union and separates the stripes. (you never cut up the union)

 

BW

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Hello Owl

 

Our troop does something similiar to yours,saying the pledge of alliegance, burning it slowly in a fire while a bugler plays taps. It is a simple,solemn,respectful,and a memorable event.

 

God Bless America!

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One method of flag retirement that I have seen and participated in is to tie a 3 foot string to each corner of the flag. This allows an honor guard of 4 scouts to bring the flag up over the fire. The updraft of the heat comming off the fire makes the flag float up. The four strings are used to bring the flag down to the flames. If done slowly, the flag will virtually explode into flames before the flag touches anything. Done at night the flag is brilliantly back lit and then the flames engulf the flag. Done with a slow hand, the results are very dramatic.

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Bob, what you said about not cutting up the union is not entirely true... It is only to be cut IF you cut each star out. Chances are , that wont be done very often.

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You wil notice to US code only says burning is one of the acceptable methods. There is no right or wrong way. Cut, don't cut. Cut only the stripes, cut the Blue, don't cut the blue. There is NOTHING other than personnal choice as to the right way as long as its dignified. We have done ones where ther flag was cut into many many small pieces befor the ceremony and all those present got to add a small pie

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I was simply relating the content of the ceremony from the American Leagion. I make no claim to their authority on the matter.

 

 

 

 

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Well I see the truncating monstor stuck me again. Too bad I can't remember what I wrote, took me 10 min to do. But seeing as I am sooo old and suffer from CRS these days, my words are lost forever.

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We've done the cut method on occasion. It allows each boy to participate by laying their stripe on the fire individually.

 

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I like to have the SCOUTS try out some different ideas. They are able to maintain dignity appropriate to the situation. Of course a lot depends on how many flags you have and how much time and your audience etc. This can be a good opportunity for your Historian or another Scout that sits back a bit to do something special.

One thing that hasn't worked all that well for us is to have each boy put a piece of the flag inthe fire. We ended up with too much moving around which seemed to dilute things a bit; and as the fire flared up the boys ended up almost throwing their stripes on and that didn't contribute to the decorum.

As always, your mileage may vary...

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I am of the no cut side.

 

We normally have the scouts lash together a flag pole, raise each flag one last time (scout salute), lower slowly (ready two) ( to taps if bugler handy) and have either scouts or volunteers from the parents or observers place the flag intact over ther fire and into it. One person then verifies that the flag is completely consumed before the next flag is placed out of service.

 

Several times the SPL has had words to say during the ceremony and we invite military or ex-military to say what they wish, then anyone in the government ( have a state senator associated with the troop) then any parents or participants and have had many people have things that they wish to say.

 

Next day the scouts collect the grommets from the ashes for burial to complete the retirement of the flag(s).

 

Have had no complaints so far and have had many tearing up during the ceremony.

 

yis

 

 

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At my WB course we did a flag retirement ceremony. We retired one very large flag. The idea was to cut it up into pieces so that everyone could participate. I remember wanting to say STOP as the cutting started, but as the ceremony progressed I calmed down. The cutting actually allowed more time for readings, songs and music. It also focused all of your thoughts on that flag, and in a convoluted way, watching the flag get cut into pieces, caused a very strong patriotic response in most of us. I am not sure if this would work for smaller flags, but it was terrific with this very large flag that we had.

 

The other advantage is of course that everyone could participate. The ceremony becomes much more personal if you have the opportunity to personally place a flag (or piece of one) into the fire.

 

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