Flag Disposal A Solemn Occasion

By Lynne Phillips
News Editor

Scouts of New London Troop 217, officers and members of the New London American Legion Post 292 recently held a flag burning ceremony at the scout cabin at Reservoir Park.

The ceremony, according to legion members is, "The dignified disposal of unserviceable flags."

Members assemble out-of-doors at night. They are aligned in two parallel rows approximately 20 feet apart, facing each other, said Chaplin John Roeder. A small fire burned opposite Legion Commander Mark Roeder.

The unserviceable flags are presented to a detail for disposal and inspection.

Second Vice-Commander, Brett Richards asked, "Is the condition of the flags the result of their usual service as the Emblem of our Country?"

Sergeant-at-Arms, Bob Detterman answered by saying, "These flags have become faded and worn over the graves of our departed comrades and the dead soldiers, sailors and airmen of all our Nation's wars."

Flags were presented to First-Vice Commander, John Longbrake who questioned, "Have any of these flags served any other purpose?"

Detterman replied, "Some of these flags have been displayed in various public places."

The flags were presented to Commander Roeder for their final inspection and dignified disposal.

Richards recommended, "Since these flags have become unserviceable in a worthy cause, I recommend they be honorably retired from further service."

Commander Roeder said, "Comrades we have presented here these flags of our country which have been inspected and judged as unserviceable. They have reached their present state in a proper service of tribute, memory and love. A flag may be a flimsy bit of printed gauze or a beautiful banner of finest silk. Its intrinsic value may be trifling or great; but its real value is beyond price, for it is a precious symbol of all that we and our comrades have worked for and lived for and died for, a free nation of free men and women, true to the faith of the past, devoted to the ideals and practice of Justice, Freedom and Democracy." He continued, "Let these faded flags of our country be retired and destroyed with respectful and honorable rites and their places be taken by bright new flags of the same size and kind and let no grave of our soldier, sailor or airman dead be unhonored and unmarked." He then instructed the Color Guard to escort the detail bearing the flags and destroy them by burning. All members stood at attention.

Chaplain John Roeder offered the following prayer: "Almighty God, Captain of all hosts and Commander over all, bless and consecrate this present hour. We thank you for our country and its flag and for the liberty for which it stands. To a clean and purging flame we commit these flags, worn out in worthy service. As they yield their substance to the fire, may your Holy Light spread over us and bring our hearts renewed devotion to God and Country. Amen.

Boy Scouts of Troop 217 were responsible for burning the flags.

According to Roeder the flag disposal is held at least once a year. He added there were in excess of 600 flags disposed of. "Nearly 500 of them are from graves," he noted.

"Some of these flags came from a campground in southern Indiana," said Legion member Dean Bailey. "A lady there said their town didn't have an American Legion or anything like it and she was happy for us to bring them here to dispose of them properly."

A flag disposal box is located at the New London American Legion just inside the door and residents are encouraged to bring flags for disposal.

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