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Streams of people entered the Spanish Fork fairgrounds. Some in patriotic red, white and blue colors, others in military, scout, police and fire uniforms. There were local city and county officials and Spanish Fork City royalty, as well as Little Miss Spanish Fork Royalty and Queens, all entering as the evening sun began to set on the distant mountains. Young children walked hand in hand with their parents in front of the large American flag which fluttered in the wind above the arena.

All had come for the same purpose, to pay homage and a last tribute to the symbol of this great nation. The Spanish Fork Flag Removal Ceremony had a humble start 24 years earlier as fewer than 50 people gathered in the parking lot of the Spanish Fork Fairgrounds to pay their last respects to the American flags that had so proudly waved. The ceremony has since grown to accommodate thousands of people who attend or volunteer to take part in this solemn ceremony.

Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 145th Field Artillery, “The Animals”, headquartered at the Utah National Guard‘s Spanish Fork Armory, has continuously supported the Spanish Fork flag retirement ceremony during the last 24 years.

“It’s great for me to come,” said 1st Sgt. Clint Ray Markland, Charlie Battery, 1-145th FA, NCO in charge. “I have soldiers where this is their first event and I can tell them, hey by the way, 21 years ago was my first time at this event. And that’s what he has become now. We can really pass on the traditions of the city, the traditions of the Guard and the national traditions during this event.

Another soldier who participated in the very first event in 1999 and went on to
participating in and attending the ceremony for the past 24 years was the keynote speaker, Command Sgt. Maj. Spencer Nielsen, Senior Enlisted Chief for the Utah National Guard, and longtime resident of Spanish Fork.

“This event is special for me because I started my military career in this community,” Nielsen said. “I was training the non-commissioned officer [noncommissioned officer] of Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 145th Field Artillery, Animals. It’s great to be a part of it, during the 24 years of existence of this flag retreat. I am happy that we take on the responsibility of honoring our country and our flag at this event each year and hope that we will do so for generations to come.

As the ceremony unfolded, members of Battery Charlie carried the largest American flag to be retired that evening, across the arena to finally rest on the flames billowing below. Once engulfed in flames, the soldiers gave a final salute then turned and stood ready to receive additional flags.

“I love having the Boy Scouts here, they’re always a big help to us. It’s something I think they’ll probably never forget. I know I’ll never forget that. that’s why we keep volunteering to come back,” said Master Sgt. Casey Shaheen, chief firearms officer with Charlie Battery, 1-145th FA.

Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Civil Air Patrol, Sea Cadets and other groups of young people marching in single file enter the arena with folded flags. Soldiers sometimes had to bend down to remove the flags from the outstretched hands of a young child. Then, as a group, the soldiers would turn, walk towards the flames and throw the folded American flags into the flames. Once again they stood and gave a final salute to complete the retreat worthy of the symbol of our country.

“It’s an awesome event, and you just need to pause and absorb it all,” Markland said. “This [the fire] gets so hot, and our faces are burned, and we wear gloves, and our uniforms stink, and it becomes one hell of an event, it’s really something you love to do.

At the end of the ceremony, with the last American flags consumed by the flames and the 23rd Army Band wrapping up their last song, the members of Battery Charlie do what they trained for, firing a 21-round salvo with the 75mm cannon.

“I love it [the U.S. flag retirement ceremony], it’s something you really should see because it’s something not many people can do,” Shaheen said. “Sometimes it corrects some misconceptions about the flag and how to dispose of it properly.”

The whole ceremony has a solemn feeling as each flag is removed, a feeling not only for the people on the ground, but for the whole crowd. An awesome feeling filled with patriotism for this great country we live in and call home.







Date taken: 14.07.2022
Date posted: 19.07.2022 17:08
Story ID: 425335
Location: WE






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