The American flag billows high in the clear sky, as majestic and independent as the country it symbolizes. It represents so many things, including the many brave men and women who have given their lives protecting the flag and the country it stands for. This beautiful symbol made up of stars and stripes is treated as a living thing, something to be cherished and respected.
When an American flag becomes worn and tattered from its glorious days of flying high, it is then replaced by a new one. But what about the old, frayed flag? It is considered disrespectful to just throw it away like all of our other garbage. Tattered flags need a proper, dignified retirement. The only problem is, not everyone knows what that entails.
A worn flag can be retired in a few different ways:
The first option is to burn it in a very specific way. Universally, burning a worn flag is considered the best way to retire it. A flag burning ceremony consists of specific procedures. *Note: only worn/tattered flags are to be retired*
When preparing to burn the flag, first it should be folded into a triangle. The flag is spread out, turned horizontally, and folded in half. This step is then repeated, so that your flag is folded into a relatively thin strip. From here, you will begin on the side opposite the field of blue and the white stars, and you will fold it with small triangles, so that the corner is repeatedly brought to one side of the flag. This will be done until the flag has thirteen triangular folds, and then the little bit of extra fabric is tucked into the triangle. All that is visible on any side of your flag is the blue and the stars. (There are many websites available that offer videos of how to fold your flag correctly.)
Next, your fire should be built so that it is big and hot enough to burn the entire flag at once. As the flag burns, you may either recite the Pledge of Allegiance, salute the flaming flag, say a prayer, or observe a minute of silence. After the flag has burned and the fire is extinguished, it is also an option to bury the ashes.
Some flags are made of materials that are hazardous to burn. For these flags especially, there are other options for a proper retirement.
Another way to dispose of old flags is to bury them. When buying a tattered flag, it needs to be placed in a secure case, so that the flag itself will not be touching the ground. Then you may say the Pledge of Allegiance, or one of the other signs of respect used when burning a flag.
For some people, especially those who have old American flags that belonged to family members or friends, it is also an option to display the flag in a special display case rather than destroy it. It is up to the preference of the owner if the flag, as long as a tattered flag is not left in the place of a flag in good condition.
One more method of flag retirement is to send it to a special organization. There the flag will either be retired properly, or recycled into material for a new flag. This is a good way for people who don’t have the time or place to burn or bury their flag to ensure it still gets a dignified retirement.
The American flag is a symbol of life, love, freedom, and justice. It deserves to be treated as the special emblem it is. Respect our country, respect our veterans, and respect our flag.
Hey, everyone! This is a little informational piece about American flag disposal. I am working on my Girl Scout Silver Award project (for those of you unfamiliar with it, it is one of the three highest awards a Girl Scout can earn). For my project, I am addressing the lack of awareness of proper flag disposal in my community by educating and collecting flags to retire in a dignified way. I have multiple family memwho are/have been in the military, and I know how important it is to respect our flag and those who sacrifice their lives to protect our country. I hope this is a helpful explanation of why we should give our flags proper retirement and how to do that!