We’re a pretty patriotic bunch and have great respect and pride in the symbol of our nation: the American flag.
Most people know that, out of such respect, you should never allow our flag to touch the ground. But, my kids know a few more of the rules too; if it flies past sunset, it should have a light on it; if it’s raining, the flag comes inside; and the stars always go in the upper left corner, whether hung horizontally or vertically.
When we moved to Virginia, before a single photo was hung inside, we put up a pole and flew a flag out front. After 3 years of faithful service our original front porch flag was faded and worn.
Instead of just doing it myself, I’m a believer in using ordinary tasks —like changing out an old flag— as teaching moments. My kids learned a few more tips on proper flag etiquette and how to neatly fold it into a ceremonial triangle.
Looking at it next to our new flag, we realized just how faded it really was! Long overdue for retirement.
But how do you properly retire or dispose of an old flag?
According to the US Flag Code, “when a flag is so tattered that it no longer fits to serve as a symbol of the United States, it should be destroyed in a dignified manner, preferably by burning.”
There’s a difference between burning the flag in protest or hatred and burning it as a respectful means of disposal. If you have an old flag ready for retirement, you can take it to your local Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, or Boy Scouts of America — all of whom offer flag disposal services.
Upon researching options in our area, I stumbled upon this news article about Sturtevant Funeral Home. Their flag donation program cremates each veteran with a donated flag – ensuring that old flags are disposed of properly and that no veteran is cremated without a red, white and blue tribute.
What a powerful opportunity to teach Bug and Songbird not only about flag etiquette, but to reinforce the real reason we value our flag as a symbol of our freedoms and those who have fought to protect it.
The cookies were just an unexpected bonus.
Upon returning home, Songbird was careful to drape Old Glory over her arm while she and Bug hooked it to the pole.
When I see bold stars and stripes flying high in the sunshine, my heart swells with pride for this great nation I am privileged to call home. I remember that men and women have given their lives in order for those flags to fly unhindered. To show the American flag proper respect in use and in retirement is the least we can do to honor the sacrifices of so many.