There’s truly nothing more beautiful than an American flag blowing in the wind against the backdrop of a blue sky. Knowing that it represents freedom and those who fought and sacrificed their lives for our rights always reminds me of the blessings of being an American. Because of all our flag represents, treating it with the dignity it deserves is important. So what do you do with your flag when it becomes damaged or tattered over time? Just as there is an etiquette for displaying Old Glory, there’s also a proper way of disposing of flags in a dignified manner.
Flag Dos and Don’ts
Many people know the basics: you honor the United States flag by keeping it off the ground, never flying it upside down, and you should always face the flag with your hand over your heart when saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
According to the U. S. Flag Code, amended in 1976 by Congress, “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.” Our flag is also considered a living entity and, as such, has all the rights thereof, including the right to exist and expire with dignity. Because of this code, there are dos and don’ts of flag disposal.
In Lewisville, NC, there is a U. S. flag disposal receptacle located behind The G. Galloway Community Center, 131 Lucy Lane. This receptacle was purchased after a fundraiser organized by Michael Simones for his Eagle Scout project with Troop 752. The receptacle is monitored, and when full, the local scout troop holds a ceremony which includes burning of the flags, completely, the preferred manner of disposal. While the flags burn, witnesses of the ceremony recite the Pledge of Allegiance or salute, ending the ceremony with a moment of silence before burying the ashes. Other locations that accept worn flags are fire departments, the local VFW, and many hardware stores.
If you don’t have a means to drop your flag off for disposal, you should still follow the guidelines for a dignified disposal.
Flags don’t always have to be disposed of with the official scout or flag ceremony. According to the VFW, you first need to fold the flag in its customary manner. (Note, if your flag is made of polyester or nylon, do not burn it due to the harmful chemicals in the fabric that are released in burning.) Start your fire (if allowed in your area) and if you are able to watch it and control the fire, make sure it’s big enough to fully burn the flag before you place the folded flag on it. Next, salute the flag and say the Pledge of Allegiance or hold a moment of silence.
Once the flag has been fully consumed, make sure to extinguish the fire safely, in accordance with all local fire laws, then bury the ashes. Burying the flag in a sturdy wooden box is also an option.
There are few icons in our lives that represent so much to us as Americans, but our flag is a sacred representation of all our country has fought for to keep our rights and freedoms, and it deserves to be flown proudly and retired in a dignified manner.