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pack195

Flag Retirement

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We always offer to return the grommets to the family.  A lot of times these flags were once on the casket of a veteran.

 

As far as grommets having any significance other than sentimental is kind of a non-issue for me.  Sometimes people take the Flag "apart" before burning... Well in my book, once the Flag is "taken apart" it is no longer the Flag, just a bunch of rags of no significance.  If someone came up to me with a square piece of red cotton cloth and asked me what it was, I would say it's a square piece of red cotton cloth.  

 

I really seen no point in wearing grommets from flags on one's uniform.  For all anyone knows, those grommets could have very well come from the dining fly.

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The flag is "only a colorful piece of cloth" unless we give it meaning and symbolism.   "Field of Valor"?   Maybe, but it is the "Union" , it represents the States united.  Before the Civil War, folks talked about "the United States are..."  After the CIvil War, it became  more often "The United States is..."    Do you see the difference there?  This was pointed out to me by Shelby Foote in the TV series about the CIvil War. 

I was taught a nice routine at our IOLS.  Our Scoutmaster/instructor takes one or more US flags and we cut them into strips and a union.  After the fun skits and songs,  he passes out a fragment, a piece of "colorful rag" to each participant around the campfire, and we talk about where this flag may have flown: over a school or carwash or library or private home, over America. He then proceeds to tell his story , about his immigrant grandfather and eagerly "American" father and mother, how they lived and served in the wars and in their community.  He then often connects this with some other short stories about "newcomers" to our shores. He then tosses his fragment into the fire and invites anyone else who might have a story to tell about our country to let us hear it.

I have heard funny memories, heartbreaking recollections of jumping walls to freedom,  Scout hikes thru foreign woods, heroes loudly lauded and humble. I 

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Hit the wrong button.....   I have heard stories of brothers and mothers lost at sea and towers brought down by mad men.  Everyone  ends with a toss of a piece of old flag into the flames of a simple campfire out in the woods surrounded by folks dedicating themselves to the youth of our community and nation. 

After everyone has had a chance to speak , and occasionally there will be a "pass" and that's alright,  our SM speaks of the unity of our diversity before he tosses the Union in the fire.     Then someone leads singing Scout Vespers or Taps (never  scripted, but someone always does it), and we leave the last tending of the fire to the "service" Patrol as the rest of us wander off to (?) bed or cracker barrel.  

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I was taught a nice routine at our IOLS.  Our Scoutmaster/instructor takes one or more US flags and we cut them into strips and a union.  After the fun skits and songs,  he passes out a fragment, a piece of "colorful rag" to each participant around the campfire, and we talk about where this flag may have flown: over a school or carwash or library or private home, over America. He then proceeds to tell his story , about his immigrant grandfather and eagerly "American" father and mother, how they lived and served in the wars and in their community.  He then often connects this with some other short stories about "newcomers" to our shores. He then tosses his fragment into the fire and invites anyone else who might have a story to tell about our country to let us hear it.

 

If you are burning a flag, I personally don't like seeing it cut up before hand. But @@SSScout's way is rather nice.

 

For synthetic flags, cutting them up (and not burning) is actually the recommended BSA way for retiring those flags. The parts are then taken to a flag recycler.

 

One reason to cut up a flag before burning however, is that some towns have outlawed flag burning (with no exceptions for retirement). Once a flag is cut up, it isn't a flag anymore so the parts can be burned.

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Over the weekend (9/11 comemoration) I saw some people wearing shorts hand-made from the flag. I was a little surprised to see that but this one is just for BDPT00, found it on Google Earth:

http://www.panoramio.com/photo/109640682

 

I've seen flag retirement many different ways in different ceremonies. The key, to me, is in the term 'respectful'. The flag is being retired. There's no getting around that. There should be many ways to do that in a respectful manner. I don't see why one way should be more or less respectful than another as long as the intent is respect. As for those shorts, I just have to shake my head, but it's nothing compared to that photo. You gotta wonder what goes through their minds. Or maybe we don't want to know that come to think of it.

Edited by cyclops

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Here are a few interesting issues in one article. An adult gets Eagle. His project cut up US flags and re-used parts of them. I am sure there's plenty here to discuss.

A special needs adult earns Eagle Scout with a really cool project that uses parts of retired flags to honor veterans.  I think the only thing to discuss about this is why isn't National doing more to spread this inspiring and positive story?

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There are many different ways to show respect to the flag.   Moving around when I was in the military, one council (deep South) cut the flags along the stripes, and had each scout drop a stripe into the fire.   Members of another council (midwest) were aghast, literally, when I mentioned this method to them.

 

Interesting that if these two groups of folks got together, without knowing each other's opinion on flag retirement rites, they'd get along just fine.   Good Americans, all of them.

 

Our flag rites are important and solemn.   But as with all rites, there will be variations between communities.   As cyclops mentioned, respect is the key.

 

Ken's grommets on the string:   I have no problem with that.  Fifty years from now, several of those scouts will still have their grommets from that ceremony in their footlocker, along with their first eye splice rope and a lopsided basket they made their first year at camp.   Powerful memories.

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If people are attempting to be respectful to the flag who are we to question them? 

 

The flag isn't some sacred thing, heck, better than half are made in a Chinese sweatshop. It really is just a piece of cloth, not the Shroud of Turin. Here's a guy trying to bring honor to Veterans, his motives are decent. Where's the problem?

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If people are attempting to be respectful to the flag who are we to question them? 

 

The flag isn't some sacred thing, heck, better than half are made in a Chinese sweatshop. It really is just a piece of cloth, not the Shroud of Turin.

Agreed, but the shroud's just a piece of cloth too. This is the problem we encounter when we attach some intangible value to symbols. In the geological time scale, all of this is just a flutter of a leaf in the breeze. The shame of it is that people often get hurt for the sake of symbols.

Nothing wrong with recycling the materials in the flag instead of burning it.

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Maybe we can recycle the veterans that fought and died to make sure that scrap of material gets put up on a flag pole some day, too.  I'm thinking over the past couple of hundred years there were a lot of people that got hurt for the sake of that symbol and the freedom that the scrap of material symbolizes is for real.

 

Sorry guys, I simply flat out reject the flippant attitude some have for this particular scrap of material. 

 

Lest we forget. (which seems to be happening on a fairly "common" level.)

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Maybe we can recycle the veterans that fought and died to make sure that scrap of material gets put up on a flag pole some day, too.  I'm thinking over the past couple of hundred years there were a lot of people that got hurt for the sake of that symbol and the freedom that the scrap of material symbolizes is for real.

 

Sorry guys, I simply flat out reject the flippant attitude some have for this particular scrap of material. 

 

Lest we forget. (which seems to be happening on a fairly "common" level.)

I'd have to agree. You retire the flag properly. You don't recycle it. The grommets I don't consider part of the flag, merely a tool to post it like a pole or rope.

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I'd have to agree. You retire the flag properly. You don't recycle it. The grommets I don't consider part of the flag, merely a tool to post it like a pole or rope.

 

The question then comes down to what is the proper way to retire the flag?  I like the ceremony that started this thread (though I do agree that Tiger Cubs should first be spectators of the ceremony and work up to participant at the Bear/Webelos level - we sometimes forget that progression in some things is a very good thing) however in any discussion beforehand or afterwards, I would suggest that the Cubs/Scouts know that burning the flag is just one way to "retire" a flag.  As has been pointed out, synthetic flags really shouldn't be burned.  Yet for most people, the only way to "retire" the flag is by burning.  What I believe is that we have stopped taking definitions seriously - and perhaps what I say will be dismissed by some as pure semantics, but sometimes (often, I think) semantics, is pretty important.

 

I think we're making the mistake of confusing Retiring with Disposing.  There is only one word needed to describe how to Retire the flag:  Respectfully.  Perhaps a large group ceremony (which may or may not include a disposition component - there is no rule that says you have to burn the flag in a ceremony retiring the flag) where speeches or stories are told (I really like the idea of telling the story of a flag's life) is the way to go for most people but an individual, a couple or a family group might retire the flag with quiet meditation on the flag.  Maybe I'm just a sentimentalist but my idea of retiring the flag is to consider the flag as a living object and to take that flag's "soul" into one's heart.  Like a human, once the soul is released, the flag (body) is now a shell of what the flag (body) represented.

 

Disposing is a different matter - burning seems to be the most popular.  Cutting up a synthetic flag is certainly acceptable.  Burying the flag is something that can be done.  I'm for recycling the flag if it results in cool projects like the Eagle Scout's project (but I do oppose recycling the flag into clothing or handbags).  I personally would have no problem shredding a cotton flag and adding it to a well operating compost pile - there is something attractive to me about the flag taking on a new role in nurturing a vegetable or flower garden.  And despite the image so discriptively put of a landfill, I don't take issue with disposing the now souless flag shell in a landfill.

 

There is one thing, though, that I do have a serious objection to and that is the retiring of flags that have been draped over veterans/soldiers/sailors/marines/guardsmens/airmens coffins - I don't believe that these should ever be retired - my preference is that if the family does want to give the flag up, that it be given to the local historical society, with a picture and brief resume of the person who that flag honored either for display or for storage.  I'd love to see the American Legion or VFW or other national veteran's group take on that responsibility through their chapters.

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Recycling is not disposing of the flag. I think the US Code covers the rest of it. For me once it is a flag it will always be a flag. When time to retire it, burn it. Recycling it is not an option in my book.

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