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pack195

Flag Retirement

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I guess the question becomes what does the US Code suggest? It says it should be destroyed in a dignified way. To me, cutting up a flag, as the adult Eagle did, to make an award for veterans certainly falls into "dignified" to me. In this instance, he took flags and gave each one their own special place and purpose in this world. It's in that act that the flag garners meaning rather than a series of colors and patterns laid out in a specific combination.

But, alas, the flag itself is such a controversial topic. I certainly can't fall into the camp that every flag is its own Mona Lisa or Sistine Chapel (I would certainly shun an Adult Eagle cutting up an original work of Degas to hand out to art students!.) What this country stands for is sacred, the rule of law, a fine Republic struggling to better itself, a people amassed for peace in a world of turmoil, the ability to pray to whom we choose. To me, that is sacred. I just find it hard to treat every flag as some special thing, holy and consecrated, where its end must be a nearly religious ceremony.

 

I don't give that sort of treatment to Bibles whose list of Saints far exceeds the heroes of this fine nation.

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The idea of 'Disposing' of Bibles brought this memory back:

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/religion/2009-10-15-bible-burning_N.htm

Talk about an alternative source of energy, lol.

And I suppose that we should thank the demonstrators in unfriendly countries (and sometimes here in the USA) for 'retiring' the flag in a proper manner by burning it. Pulleeeeze! Burning it is merely recycling it as well, just in a different chemical process. Burying it? Microbes will 'recycle' it. If the thought of putting the flag into the recycling bin is distasteful, then make sure that every flag patch on every scout shirt gets a proper retirement by burning. Add to that all those little plastic staffs for car windows, etc. I have found those flags just lying in the street, covered with grime, being driven over by traffic. Their fate? The trash bin.

As for those who have served in the military, they did not give their service for the sake of a flag but rather for what the flag symbolizes. As with any symbol, doing something to the symbol does nothing to that which it symbolizes - but in some countries it can get you executed, is that what you are advocating, to be like those people?

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The only way I have ever done a flag retirement is to cut it up first, usually the union separate and then the individual stripes, with some respectful ceremony and then burn, sometimes taps was playing, sometimes it was just quiet reflection.  I know there is a lot of indifference, for lack of a better term, towards the flag, which saddens me.  But I always look at the flag with honor and reverence and treat it the  same way.  It is amazing how many boys in troops out there let the flag drag on the ground.  That is like nails on a chalkboard to me.

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I might be errant in my beliefs and passion for some piece of cloth that only symbolizes something to a few out there, but every time I see it, especially in a scouting setting, I am reminded back 45 years to two of my scouting buddies that didn't make it home from Vietnam.  Yeah, I tend to get a little wound up when thoughtless comments or activities are done in my arena of awareness.  My scouts talked about the way the flags were treated at summer camp last summer as recently as ... yesterday's meeting.

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I've got to say that I am less worried about how the flag is disposed of than I am of how the flag is treated when it isn't being retired.  Every time I attend a hockey game in the Chicago area, I get truly disgusted by the behavior of the folks I will describe as false patriots who wrap themselves up in the flag - generally young men from 18 to 35 - who have never served a day in their life (and I know this because had they served, they would never - ever - do this) who, while still wearing their baseball caps, will start cheering 2/3rds into the singing of the National Anthem while women, and older men, and active duty military personnel and veterans continue to salute the flag respectfully, and possibly sing along (or at least mouthing the words).   I may be even more disgusted with the management of the teams and the singers of the anthem who haven't put a stop to this nonsense.

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I grew up in small town Texas surrounded by veterans.  That gave me a deep respect for the flag.  I try to impart that to my Scouts.  Myself, my ASM & 2 of my committee members are veterans.  I always talk with these guys to make sure we're on the same page.

 

The biggest thing in any of the flag ceremonies is respect.  The Scouts may do something "wrong" but it's usually not on purpose.  Gentle instruction/correction comes after the ceremony.

 

I've been in one Troop where the CC would yell across the room to stop the ceremony in the middle if anything was wrong.  I won't do that and I won't allow in this Troop.

 

Everyone has their version of "right".  As long as it's respectful, I'm okay with it.

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If anyone wishes to know what respect for the US Flag is all about, one must first know what is prescribed in the US Flag Code.  That is the MINIMUM of respect.  Thoughtful and meaningful adaptations built on that basis are always welcome.  

 

However, when individual and groups begin to make up their own version of the US Flag Code and parade it around as "respectful" I have a problem with it.  It is clearly obvious these people have no idea what is written in the US Flag Code or they wouldn't be doing it.  Ignorance of respect is obvious all over and have a more profound affect than the occasional purposeful burning of the Flag in protest.  They are knowingly being disrespectful.  Ignorantly being disrespectful is worse.

 

I was physically unable to serve in the military even though I tried to enlist, but I still teach my boys that there are only two important things that need to be accomplished at every gathering of the troop.  One is the opening Flag ceremony and the other is the closing.  I have seen a lot of errors from my boys as they learn the process of respect, but I have never doubted their sincerity of trying to do it the best they are able.

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If anyone wishes to know what respect for the US Flag is all about, one must first know what is prescribed in the US Flag Code.  That is the MINIMUM of respect.  Thoughtful and meaningful adaptations built on that basis are always welcome.  

 

However, when individual and groups begin to make up their own version of the US Flag Code and parade it around as "respectful" I have a problem with it.  It is clearly obvious these people have no idea what is written in the US Flag Code or they wouldn't be doing it.  Ignorance of respect is obvious all over and have a more profound affect than the occasional purposeful burning of the Flag in protest.  They are knowingly being disrespectful.  Ignorantly being disrespectful is worse.

 

I was physically unable to serve in the military even though I tried to enlist, but I still teach my boys that there are only two important things that need to be accomplished at every gathering of the troop.  One is the opening Flag ceremony and the other is the closing.  I have seen a lot of errors from my boys as they learn the process of respect, but I have never doubted their sincerity of trying to do it the best they are able.

I'd even go farther to say we have institutional disrespect.  Just this week my place of employment put the US flag at half staff due to the all too early passing of an employee.  I'm sure he was a nice guy but not cool.  Even those entrusted with the power to order the flag to half staff use it too frequently IMNSHO.

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@@walk in the woods

 

I'm not sure with this answer, but I'm under the belief that the Flag flies at half-mast by order of the President or the Governor of the state.  That protocol is outside the parameters of the US Flag Code which is prescribed for civilians and civilians do not have the authority to fly the flag at half-mast unless directed to by President or Governor.

 

And you are correct, some of the biggest abusers of the US Flag Code are organizations and institutions.

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As a ADC, I was once asked to help organize a 9-11 memorial. At a local mosque. We elicited a couple dozen Scouts from several

units, collected Troop, County, State, and US flags. The day of the event (many politicians, media, various faiths represented) , our Scouts gathered, elected a Color Guard Captain, and with the organizers of the event, set up the routine, and even practiced the entrance and exit once.

The event went well. The crowd was respectful, the Scouts resplendid in their uniforms. The parade in (led by the US flag) went without a hitch, the speeches were meaningful.

When it was time to close, everyone on the dais paraded out, the flags reversed order and paraded out. The US flag, by opinion of the Scouts, stayed on the dais some seconds longer, and paraded out the very last, with Scout escort.

We had many compliments.

 

As we were packing up to leave, a county police officer took me aside and told me he was a Marine veteran, and did I know we did the ceremony WRONG? He said in no uncertain terms, he realized that Scouts might not be expected to know that the US flag NEVER follows another flag, but he could forgive us our ignorance. I thanked him for his comment, but told him the Scouts had decided that the US flag should be the very last thing folks saw at the end of this ceremony, and did he not see the extra spotlight on it as it stood center on the stage, before it was carried out? He said that sounded better, but he still thought it should have LED the other flags out.

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Being a veteran doesn't make one an expert. The US flag often follows other flags (the Olympics comes immediately to mind). I think the ceremony you describe (especially with the lighting on the sole remaining flag) sounds very respectful and meaningful. The problem I encounter most often is that those with opinions will almost always say that there is only one way to do things. There can be plenty of ways to do things 'wrong,' but that doesn't mean that there's only one way to do thing 'right.'

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As a ADC, I was once asked to help organize a 9-11 memorial. At a local mosque. We elicited a couple dozen Scouts from several

units, collected Troop, County, State, and US flags. The day of the event (many politicians, media, various faiths represented) , our Scouts gathered, elected a Color Guard Captain, and with the organizers of the event, set up the routine, and even practiced the entrance and exit once.

The event went well. The crowd was respectful, the Scouts resplendid in their uniforms. The parade in (led by the US flag) went without a hitch, the speeches were meaningful.

When it was time to close, everyone on the dais paraded out, the flags reversed order and paraded out. The US flag, by opinion of the Scouts, stayed on the dais some seconds longer, and paraded out the very last, with Scout escort.

We had many compliments.

 

As we were packing up to leave, a county police officer took me aside and told me he was a Marine veteran, and did I know we did the ceremony WRONG? He said in no uncertain terms, he realized that Scouts might not be expected to know that the US flag NEVER follows another flag, but he could forgive us our ignorance. I thanked him for his comment, but told him the Scouts had decided that the US flag should be the very last thing folks saw at the end of this ceremony, and did he not see the extra spotlight on it as it stood center on the stage, before it was carried out? He said that sounded better, but he still thought it should have LED the other flags out.

 

Check your US Flag Code and Boy Scout Handbook.  The Marine is correct.  The US Flag is always the first in and first out.  The only time it is last is when it comes down the flag pole.  It is always the last to be collected up by the color guard.

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And once someone made up these arcane 'rules' they take a life of their own and then people can squabble about their application, lol.

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The only way I have ever done a flag retirement is to cut it up first, usually the union separate and then the individual stripes, with some respectful ceremony and then burn, sometimes taps was playing, sometimes it was just quiet reflection.  I know there is a lot of indifference, for lack of a better term, towards the flag, which saddens me.  But I always look at the flag with honor and reverence and treat it the  same way.  It is amazing how many boys in troops out there let the flag drag on the ground.  That is like nails on a chalkboard to me.

This too is the way I learned to do it, and the only way I have led such a ceremony since.  (Alhough the union, while first to be removed, is the last to be burned).

With the cub scouts, it's hard, they don't do well remaining respecful and quiet for the time it take, but every one of them remembers that ceremony year later.

I saved a gromit from my first flag retirement, it's a part of my neckercief slide.  It is a reminder to me of the power of a lasting memory.

 

I read through the earlier links on the (generally non-binding US Flag code), it's a good read; but the key was, as many have said, a respectful ceremony.

Edited by gumbymaster

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