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Hawkrod

Camporee Flag Retirement Ideas

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My son will be coordinating a flag retirement at Camporee and he is looking for ideas and suggestions. Now, to put the spin on it, we are looking at possibly retiring a 20 X 38 foot flag and so traditional ceremonies are not going to easily adapt. My son wants to both, make this a memorable event as our District has a lot of new Scouts, and also take advantage of the large group that would be present to deal with an obviously difficult retirement that we have been putting off for obvious reasons! So far in the running are cutting the flag into components and folding them to lay in the fire or starting with a triangle fold and unfolding, displaying and then folding into a coffin shaped rectangle to place in the fire. Any other suggestions or ideas? This is a very big cotton flag and some of the concerns are flare up of the fire as we place the flag and the sheer weight of it for the boys (I was even thinking of possibly making a litter to carry it on). TIA

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Something that we've done at Webelos-ree:

 

We have a big campfire, and do the retirements last as the fire is down to coals and the evening can end on a serious and respectful note. We have many average-sized flags to retire as well as (usually) a garrison flag. Each den/patrol in the crowd gets a flag from the collection to process and a group of staff or a patrol is selected to handle the garrison flag.

 

With the "Georgia" ceremony, we cut the flag into 4 parts: the bottom 3 stripes, the 4th stripe, the other stripes, and the union. Each piece is carried forward and placed on the fire in that order. So, we get all the 3 stripe sections done, then the 4th stripe sections, etc. The union is always last, and the union from the garrison flag is last of all. As it is consumed, the bugler sounds Taps, and the assembly is dismissed.

 

The significance of the 4th stripe is that Georgia was the 4th state to ratify the Constitution. That's not going to work for California, so you'll have to come up with another local plan.

 

-R

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Sometimes simpler is better. You don't always need an elaborate ceremony. Some of the most moving ceremonies I've attended consisted of a single speaker offering some brief insight or reflection, then instructing the colorguard to retire the flags. Asking the audience to stand in silence, salute the flags, and then observe in silence as they are retired can itself be a powerful experience.

 

As far as the enormous flag goes, that does pose a bit of a logistical challenge. I'm personally not really a fan of cutting the flag into pieces - that, in my opinion, involves too many complications and "moving parts" that can detract from the solmenity of the ceremony. Since this is a camporee, maybe you could invite one adult and one youth from each unit present to help carry, present, and retire the flag? Maybe supplement that number with some of the district and council personnel present?

 

A big flag may require a bigger fire, so keep that in mind. If you're worried about flaming pieces flying into the air, I'd recommend keeping the flag folded somewhat when placing it on the fire, and maybe have someone discretely place a few heavy logs on top of it. Being a cotton flag, it will definitely brighten your campfire ring as it burns - there's a lot of symbolism there for the Scouts in the audience to reflect on...

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What I've seen done is a flag held up, and 14 quotes from important Americans as the stripes are cut from the flag and placed in the fire. Each stripe has a quote, and the blue union has it's own quote.

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Excellent, keep them coming! We are worried about how much time would be involved in cutting a flag this size so if we do cut the flag it will be done in advance but then it can't be displayed so that is a tough one. I am not a fan of cutting flags to retire them as it just does not seem right to me, but thats me and it is not my call. I know a lot of people do it but we really want to try and avoid that so we can display it as that is how we learned it, always display the flag one last time out of respect and if it is cut we can't. TA

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One thing I have done with large flags to be retired is to make a metal frame work almost like a grill that is placed in the center of the fire lay. It may be placed close to the edge, but still far enough in to be hidden. Then after the fire has burned down and the ceremony starts, the folded flag is placed on the grill during the ceremony. The flag is elevated so it never touches the ground, the flag rests on "grill wires" so the heat and flames can come up and burn the material. I have had people say it looks looked like the flag was hovering above the ground while it burned, that all depends on how thin you can make the grill of how high you can make the fire.

 

Its a thought

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Invite all the Veterinarians in attendance to come forward and help. Then just have them hold the flag in front of the fire so the fire reflects through the flag. then they just lay the flag in the fire and fold the sides over into the fire starting with the corners until the flag is all in the fire. As the flag is burning the Vets all step back and salute the flag until its gone.

 

A Flag retirement is not suppose to be a grand ceremony, just a simple respectful retirement of the flag. It is also not suppose to be done a part of the meeting. We always officially close the meeting. Retire the flag then leave the area quietly. The flag retirement being the last thing done.

 

One thing we also did was have the Vets leave the area first but line the path so the young men could thank them for their service. It really means a lot to the Vets and the Youth, and the youth are sometimes surprised by who are the Vets among them.

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This probably goes without saying, but don't forget to give the Flag's History and significance.

 

Retiring the flag without cutting it is a good idea but with such a large flag may simply not be practical for the size of the flag or safe for the boys who have to carry it.

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For really large flags, and 20 x 38 certainly qualified, I find it is best to just leave it folded. Considering that even folding it lengthwise a third time time the diagonal is 3.5 ft. I like OldGreyEagle's idea of a frame, but I don't know if it is needed.

 

I've never cared for cutting the flag. It complicates things for the scouts and in general simple is better.

 

Keep in mind that a large fire means it will take that much longer to allow it to burn to ash. I know some people get upset if the fire is not allowed to burn out on its own.

 

While I enjoy flag retirements, there are times I wish we would not do them at multi-unit events like camporee or Woodbadge. Everyone has their own traditions. Everyone thinks their traditions are the only correct traditions and that any variance shows disrespect to the flag. I've seen more disputes over flag retirements than anything else at these events. It seems like there is always someone unhappy about what was done. Seems to me the disputes show greater disrespect than any of the "violations" of tradition.

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There is no right or wrong way, as long as it is done respectfully. The American Legion has a simple, but touching ceremony that you can use--just substitute Post Officers for Troop Officers. (Commander=Scoutmaster; First Vice commander=Assistant SM, etc.)

http://www.usa-flag-site.org/forum/flag-burning-ceremony-details-872.html

 

scroll toward the bottom for the AL ceremony.

 

You MAY cut the flag into pieces if size/safety is a concern.

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Maybe I need to be a bit clearer, we are not in need of a ceremony for flag retirement, we are in need of a ceremony for a giant flag retirement. Plenty of good ideas and suggestions here but we are not new to doing retirements and usually do several hundred per year (we currently have a backlog of over 800 flags waiting for retirement) but the retirement ceremonies we have are not designed around the work of retiring a monster (we have more 20 X 38's and also have some 30 X 50's waiting for retirement as well). The idea is to take advantage of the fact that we will have a lot of help and we really need to be rid of some of these flags and also make it special for a lot of boys that are new to Scouting and this is the first event for many of them. I really do like that short one just above the AL ceremony in that link and printed both of them out for my son to look over. My hope is that we can retire a monster and get it off our books while making it a solemn and memorable experience for the boys. My sons goals are similar but he does not have to move all the flags around in the shed when the pack needs something from the back!

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Whether you cut the flag into pieces or not is dependent on your individual preferences. When I did it with Webelos, we wanted the extra complexity and pieces so that each scout could be an active participant and not just watch some other guys burn up a flag.

 

Don't cut it in advance. It's not a flag anymore. Those big ones can be tough to cut. I had good results with my emergency shears - they'll cut through most stuff.

 

When I was a scout, my scoutmaster would collect the grommets from a retirement and use them as impact awards. Tie a grommet into a leather cord. Catch a scout doing something special, extra mile, etc - and you call him out and present him with an impact award. It was an item of honor.

 

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I'm a little un-sure what your goal is?

Do you want to perform a ceremony for those who may not have seen or know the correct way of retiring an American Flag?

Or is the goal to retire this over sized flag?

I think maybe the best plan would be to retire one or two of the many flags that you have and then after the crowd has gone, respectfully retire the rest. With only a handful of people.

Eamonn

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