A small group gathered at the Union Township Civic Center amphitheater June 12 to honor one of the nations most recognized symbols – the flag.
The ceremony was held to retire American flags that were no longer fit to be displayed, and elected officials, members of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 649, Boy Scout Troops, Union Township trustees and more all came out to participate.
“It just about has thrilled me to death,” Steve Tam of the Vietnam Veterans Chapter 649 said about the ceremony. “Because I see the respect and the honor that our public has today.”
The ceremony provided several chances to honor the flag, as well as educational opportunities to learn more about the symbol and how it is supposed to be treated.
When a flag is no longer fit to be displayed the correct way to get rid of it is to destroy it in a dignified manner. At the ceremony June 12, the process involved several steps performed by Boy Scout Troop 742, led by Tim Hoeflich.
The ceremony began with a posting of the colors, invocation and the pledge of allegiance. It continued with words from Commissioner Bob Proud, who read a poem, and Congresswoman Jean Schmidt, who spoke directly to members of Boy Scouts of America Troop 742.
“I hope you carry that love of our country forward,” Schmidt said.
Members of Boy Scout Troop 742 went on to demonstrate how to properly fold a flag and eventually demonstrated the honorable way to retire one of the 3,000 flags collected by the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 649.
First, the troops, along with the rest of the audience, said the pledge of allegiance to the flag, which was thin, faded and torn. They moved on to cut the flag at the intersections of the stripes, and as they did so, named the 13 original colonies for which the stripes represent.
As the stripes were cut, they were placed into an ash collecting fire bowl, where they were burned. The final section to be burned was the blue section of stars. After the Boy Scouts finished the process, guests stood once again to pay a final tribute to the flag.
Tam said after all of the flags are destroyed he will announce a place of burial for the ashes. The ceremony closed with the playing of Taps by Zach Prestin and Jacob Zigler, and the musical piece left audience members with mixed emotions.
“It was nice,” Josh Hoeflich, Boy Scout Troop 742 member, said about the ceremony. “I was glad we could do this.”
And while some people, like Hoeflich, made a new memory at the ceremony, it was hard for other people to get through it without becoming emotional. Many members of the audience were veterans who fought for the freedom represented by the flag, and for them, the symbol brought back many memories.
“Just what our men and women went through,” Ronald Bratten, a Vietnam Veteran, said about what the ceremony meant to him. “People just don’t understand.”
Education was one of the goals of the ceremony. Not only educating people on how to properly retire a flag, but also educating people about how to honor the flag on a daily basis, for example displaying the flag properly, folding it correctly and not using it for clothing or advertisements.
“Hopefully education will broaden and more people will understand,” Tam said.