How to Retire Your Flag

(U.S. Army)
(U.S. Army)

We raised our flags September 11, 2001 and flew them proudly. Our flags stand tall as we leave our mark on foreign soil. Each year, Americans across the nation unfurl their flags on Independence Day, Memorial Day, and Flag Day. For some, the Stars and Stripes decorates their porches all year as a daily reminder of what it means to be an American.

But what do we do when our flags become tattered and torn, and can fly no longer?

There is a justified reason and dignified way of burning the flag when the time has come for Old Glory.

The Council for Okinawa Protection and Police Services (C.O.P.P.S.) did just that when they retired Old Glory in fiery fashion during a flag retirement ceremony on Flag Day.

"U.S. Flag Code 1 simply reads: 'The flag, when it is in such a condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning,'" said Les Donoho of Boy Scout Pack 133, who participated in the ceremony.

Lt. Col. Kevan Kvenlog, Provost Marshal, Marine Corps Base, opened the ceremony by discussing the tradition of retiring the flag, the conditions for the retirement and expressed his gratitude to those in attendance.

After opening comments, one representative from each military branch held a corner of Old Glory, the post flag flown over Building 1, as it was inspected by 2nd Lt. Leroy Corte-Real, district officer in charge, central district provost marshal's office, Camp Foster.

Corte-Real reported to Kvenlog that the flag had been found unserviceable and unsuitable to be displayed. Kvenlog then gave the order for the retirement of the flag to commence.

The four Servicemembers carried it to a burn barrel, lit it on fire and saluted the flag one last time.

Following the retirement of the Building 1 post flag, members of local Boy Scout packs and Girl Scout troops brought forward other tattered flags to be disposed of properly.

Along with Boy Scout and Girl Scout representatives in attendance, some junior enlisted Marines made their way out to observe the occasion for the first time.

"I've never been to a flag retirement ceremony and I wanted to pay respects to my flag," said Lance Cpl. Christopher Jose, multi-channel equipment repairman, Marine Wing Communication Squadron 18, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.

According to Kvenlog, having representatives from the four military services and local law enforcement agencies in attendance displayed the working cooperation between each. He said the ceremony was the first for C.O.P.P.S. and it was sponsored by all law enforcement agencies on the island.

"We held this ceremony for public service and to show honor to the flag," Kvenlog said. "It was an opportunity to show the four services and local agencies working together."

He said it was also a way of letting people know what to do if they have old, unserviceable flags to be disposed of.

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