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Flag retirement ceremony reinforces laws, reverence for national symbol

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Susan Penning
  • 193rd Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
Facing the U.S. Flag and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is a ritual that has been performed in American classrooms for more than a century. Yet how many citizens truly understand the sacredness of this nation's most widely recognized symbol? Do they know the laws and courtesies regarding the flag's display, handling and retirement?

To help reinforce proper U.S. Flag protocol, leaders at the 193rd Special Operations Wing conducted a flag retirement ceremony on base June 9. At the event, held in conjunction with Flag Day, military members and their guests brought flags that were tattered, worn, faded or otherwise unserviceable and witnessed them being properly retired.

Spearheaded by the 193rd SOW First Sergeants Council, the flag retirement ceremony included the posting of the Colors by the Base Honor Guard, the singing of the National Anthem, an invocation and the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance. Military members stood at attention in formation, rendering salutes when appropriate.

Senior Master Sgt. Dale Perry, a first sergeant at the wing, spoke to the crowd about the history of the U.S. Flag, highlighting its importance and reminding those in attendance why they must treat it with reverence. Following his remarks, the first worn flag was presented. It was confirmed that the flag had served its country properly during its lifetime and the order was given to retire it. It was ceremonially burned while Taps played in the background. The rest of the unserviceable flags brought to the event were retired after the ceremony concluded. All ashes were taken off base and buried by members of the base fire department.

"This ceremony was an important reminder to wing personnel that we must be knowledgeable about and mindful of our customs and courtesies," said Sergeant Perry. "We often get so busy performing the mission that we don't take time to foster esprit de corps. This event was one valid, visible way for us to reinforce protocol and fulfill our first sergeants' role as advisors regarding the morale and conduct of enlisted members."

Sergeant Perry said the first sergeants council is considering making the ceremony an annual event.

Anyone with tattered, worn, faded or otherwise unserviceable flags may deliver them to a local Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion or Boy Scouts of America organization for retirement. Or they may perform their own personal flag retirement ceremony. The Veterans Department of Affairs suggests preparing a large-enough fire space to sufficiently burn the flag; opening up its tri-corner customary fold and then refolding the flag in a coffin-shaped rectangle; placing the flag in the fire; designating individuals at the ceremony to salute or recite the Pledge of Allegiance - followed by a moment of silence; and burying the ashes once the flag is completely consumed and the fire is safely extinguished.