SOLON — The flag of the United States of America consists of 13 alternating red and white stripes, a blue field, and 50 white stars. It is an internationally recognized symbol not only of the nation, but of freedom and liberty. In order to encourage and maintain respect for this powerful symbol, the United State Code (USC), Section 4, Chapter 1, AKA: “The Flag Code,” stipulates the proper display and use of the flag. It also details how and when a flag should be disposed of (retired).
“The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”
June 14 is Flag Day, which commemorates a resolution passed by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777, approving the design of the flag. President Woodrow Wilson, on June 14, 1916, officially established the day as Flag Day. June 14 is also the day many patriotic organizations such as the American Legion hold ceremonies to retire damaged, faded, or otherwise unserviceable flags by burning them.
While flag burning is sometimes performed as an act of protest (note: in 1989 a controversial 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court upheld flag burning as a protected act under the First Amendment to the Constitution), it is the preferred method of disposal and is to be done reverently.
Solon American Legion Stinocher Post 460 held such a ceremony Tuesday, June 14.
“We wanted to show the community what the proper disposal of the American flag looks like,” said Adam Hopp, Commander of Post 460. The Post’s Sergeant at Arms and the Color Guard first presented flags to the Vice Commander, and then to Hopp for inspection and confirmation they were no longer suitable for use. Upon Hopp’s orders the flags were then placed on a rack over a fire.
Even though they were being destroyed, the flags were handled with care and respect, and not allowed to touch the ground. After the burning was completed, and fire had gone out, any remaining pieces (including any metal grommets) were collected and buried.
“If a flag becomes faded in color, or it starts to tatter, or ripped, it shall not be flown (per the Flag Code),” Hopp said. “Take it down and give it to an organization that does a proper ceremony, like we do, and put up a new one.” While the Stinocher Post hasn’t always done an annual ceremony, Hopp said, “It will be the tradition of the Solon American Legion to hold this ceremony on Flag Day each year.”
The Post accepts flags for retirement throughout the year.