Goodbye Old Glory
R.S. Legion burns retired flags on Flag Day
— The craftsmanship of a United States flag may vary from banner to banner, but what it symbolizes to a patriotic American holds the same value — one that exceeds monetary measurement.
Vince Mulé, commander of American Legion Mason-
Dixon Post No. 194 of Rising Sun, made that point Tuesday night during a reverent Flag Day ceremony in which a few thousand worn and tattered U.S. flags of all sizes were burned.
Burning a worn and tattered flag is the proper way to dispose of it. It is considered unpatriotic to throw away a U.S. flag.
“A flag may be a flimsy bit of printed fabric, or it may be a beautiful banner of the finest silk. It’s fundamental
value may be trifling or great. But it’s real value is beyond price, for it is a precious symbol of all that we and our comrades have worked 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,” Mulé explained while addressing the crowd assembled beneath the post’s pavilion.
During the past year, dating back to Flag Day 2015, residents had dropped off their worn and tattered U.S. flags at Post 194 so those banners could be “honorably retired from service” in Tuesday night’s ceremony, Mulé told the Whig, noting, “We have thousands of flags.”
Most of the collected worn and tattered flags wound up in plastic lawn bags. Some were in boxes. Some were loose, particularly the smaller banners that can be handheld with a wooden stick — the type people wave at patriotic public events, such as an Independence Day parade, and adorn military graves. Most of the tattered and worn flags had been stored in a shed on the Post 194 property.
Referring to the burning of the worn and tattered U.S. banners, Mulé noted, “We are one of the few posts in our community that still does this.”
The pageantry of the flag retirement ceremony included the Upper Chesapeake Community Band, under the direction of Mary White, performing several patriotic and inspirational numbers. The list included “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “Climb Every Mountain,” “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,” and “God Bless America.”
In addition, the band played “The Star Spangled Banner” during a segment of the ceremony also marked by the crowd reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and Post 194 chaplain, Axel Wicks, lifting up an opening prayer.
With flames shooting up from two, elongated metal containers in the courtyard — members of the Community of Rising Sun Fire Co. had started the fire and monitored the controlled burning — Post 194’s color guard assembled and then presented the first round of “unserviceable” flags to 2nd Vice Commander Mike Saponaro, 1st Vice Commander Martin Thompson and then to Mulé for inspection.
It was noted during this process that “these flags have become faded and worn over the graves of our departed comrades who have served this country in the various Armed Forces during all wars” and that some of the banners had been displayed “in various public places.”
The inspectors concluded that the presented worn and tattered flags were, indeed, unserviceable.
“They have reached their present state in a proper service of tribute, memory and love,” Mulé said after his inspection. “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 or sailor be unhonored or unmarked.”
The flag detail marched away from Mulé, who stood at a podium, and it stopped several feet from the fire, where it stood at attention.
Wicks offered a prayer and then the Post 194 honor guard executed a rifle salute that, as Mulé explained, marked “a final salute to our departed comrades who have proudly served under the United States flag, the symbol of this great nation.”
Then the color guard placed those worn and tattered flags into the fire, prompting the playing of “Taps” by bugler Edward Webb, a Post 194 honor guard member.
Concluding the ceremony, Wicks offered a prayer to “all departed comrades who had served under this flag while protecting our country.”
As they had been instructed at the outset, people attending the Flag Day event remained standing throughout the ceremony. In addition to dozens of res- idents, members of Boys Scouts Troop 173 of Calvert and Cub Scouts Pack 28 of Rising Sun were in the crowd.
With bags and boxes of worn and tattered banners piled on the ground, Post 194 members and volunteers continued burning the flags for at least an hour after the official ceremony had ended.
Holding the worn and tattered flags, the honor guard stands at attention in front of the fire containers after the banners had been deemed unserviceable.
With flames shooting up from the burn containers behind them, members of the American Legion Mason-Dixon Post 194 color guard hold worn and tattered U.S. flags during the ceremony in Rising Sun.
The American Legion Mason-Dixon Post 194 honor guard stands at attention during the flag retirement ceremony.
A member of American Legion Mason-Dixon Post 194 of Rising Sun tosses unserviceable U.S. flags into the fire.