BUCKHANNON — On Wednesday, June 15, the American Legion Post 7 in Buckhannon held a flag removal ceremony at 6 p.m. The Post 7 removed flags that had been received within the past year. The event took place at the Buckhannon Fire Department. American Legion Station 7 Commander Mike Wallace estimated that more than 200 flags had been removed.
The American Legion conducts Flag Removal Ceremonies, also known as Unusable Flag Ceremonies. The American Legion has held these ceremonies since its adoption by the 19th American Legion National Convention in New York in September 1937. The American Legion states, “The ceremony has been an integral part of American Legion ritual since that date. ”
The ceremony for the disposal of unusable flags is described in Resolution No. 440.
The purpose of the American Legion in adopting this ceremony was to encourage respect for the flag of the United States and to provide for the dignified disposal of unserviceable flags. Resolution No. 373, approved by the American Legion National Convention meeting in Chicago, Illinois, September 18-20, 1944, re-emphasized the purpose of proper public flag-laying ceremonies and encouraged greater use of this ceremony by the American Legion.
Additionally, the American Legion has provided a script that is commonly followed in such ceremonies. It is as follows. “The post meets in meetings, outdoors, at night. The limbs are lined up in two parallel rows about 20 feet apart, facing each other. The officers are at their posts. A small fire burns in front of the commander and beyond the rows of members.
Sergeant-at-Arms: “Comrade Commander, we wish to present a number of unserviceable flags of our country for inspection and disposal.”
Commander: “Comrade Sergeant-at-Arms, advance with your detachment and present the colors for disposal and inspection.”
(The Sergeant-at-Arms catches his eye. They form up at the Sergeant-at-Arms post, take the colors that need to be inspected, march abreast to the center to face the second vice-commander, turn right and s (stop two paces in front of the Second Vice-Commander. The Sergeant-at-Arms steps forward and salutes.)
Sergeant-at-Arms: “Comrade Vice-Commander, we present these unusable flags for your inspection.”
Second Vice Commander: “Is the current state of these flags the result of their regular service as an emblem of our country? »
Sergeant-at-Arms: “These flags have faded and been borne to the graves of our fallen comrades and the fallen soldiers, sailors, seafarers and airmen of all our nation’s wars.”
Second Vice-Commander: “Present these flags to the First Vice-Commander for his inspection. (Sergeant-at-Arms salutes, on the faces, commands the detail), “About the face”, (passes behind the detail and takes up his position to his left, commands) “March forward”. (The detail walks within two paces of the First Vice Commander, stops, and continues as before.)
Sergeant-at-Arms: “Comrade Vice-Commander, we present to you these flags which have been inspected by the Second Vice-Commander, for your further inspection.”
First Vice Commander: “Have any of these flags been used for any other purpose?”
Sergeant-at-Arms: “Some of these flags have been displayed in various public places.” First Vice Commander: “Present them to the Commander for final inspection and removal of fittings.”
(Sergeant-at-Arms salutes, on the faces, commands the detail), “About the face”, (passes behind the detail and takes position on his left command), “March forward”. (The detachment marches to the center, turns left, stops within two paces of the Commanding Officer, the Sergeant-at-Arms steps forward and salutes.)
Sergeant-at-Arms: “Comrade Commander, we have the honor to present for final inspection and proper disposal these flags of our country.”
Commander: “Have these flags been inspected by the first and second vice commanders?”
Sergeant-at-Arms: “They have.”
Commander: “Comrade Second Vice Commander, what does your inspection show and what do you recommend?”
Second Vice Commander: “Comrade Commander, since these flags have become unusable for a good cause, I recommend that they be honorably retired from service.”
Commander: “Comrade First Vice Commander, what does your inspection show and what do you recommend? »
First Vice Commander: “Comrade Commander, since these flags have faded and been worn in honor of service and love, I also recommend that they be appropriately destroyed.”
Commander: “Comrades, we have presented here these flags of our country which have been inspected and condemned as unusable. They have reached their present state in a fitting service of homage, memory and love.
“A flag can be a flimsy piece of printed gauze or a beautiful banner of the finest silk. Its intrinsic value can be insignificant or great; but its real value is inestimable, for it is a precious symbol of all that we and our comrades have worked and lived for, and died for a free nation of free men, faithful to the faith of the past, devoted to the ideals and the practice of Justice, Liberty and Democracy.
“May these faded flags of our country be removed and destroyed with respectful and honorable rites and may their places be taken by bright new flags of the same size and type and may no grave of our dead soldier or sailor be honored and unmarked Sergeant-at-Arms, muster the Color Guard, escort the detachment carrying the Colors and destroy those Colors by burning them Members to stand at attention.
(Forms of the color guard. The detail of the faces. Preceded by the color guard, the detail marches in the center of the fire. The national colors cross and take position to the right of the fire, facing the commander. The post standard takes position to the left of the fire The detail lines up behind the fire, which burns low.)
Commander: “The chaplain will offer the prayer.”
Chaplain: “Almighty God, Captain of all armies and Commander of all, bless and consecrate this present hour.
“We thank you for our country and its flag, and for the freedom it represents. “To cleanse and purge the flame, we pledge these flags, worn in worthy service. As they yield their substance to the fire, may Your Holy Light pour out upon us and bring to our hearts renewed devotion to God and Country. Amen.”
Commander: “Hand wave.”
(The Color Guards present arms. The post standard is dipped. All officers and members, except those of the flag detail, salute. The members of the flag detail dip the condemned flags in kerosene and the place on a support above the fire).
(The bugler sounds “To the Colours.”)
Commander: (at the end of “To the Colours”) “Two”.
(The Color Guard is to resume his post and the detail is dismissed.)
(Color Guard advances to the center and places the colors. The detail members resume their places among the members.)”
At the ceremony held at the Buckhannon Fire Department, American Legion Station 7 Commander Mike Wallace said, “There were about 10 Legionnaires attending and in attendance. The ceremony was overseen by outgoing Commander Warrick Osborne. Wallace was asked if all flag removal ceremonies end with a burial of ashes, to which he replied, “No. The end of the ceremony is after the bugle plays and the rest of the flags begin to be placed in the fire. It may take several hours for all flags to complete the process. Once they are consumed in the fire, it will take even more hours for them to cool down to where they can be moved. We will meet with the city next week to receive permission to bury these ashes near the mainmast at the top of the hill in Heavner Cemetery. Assuming we will receive permission; the burial of the ashes will be accomplished in the following week.
Wallace also said, “We want to thank everyone who came out on Wednesday to watch the ceremony. It was one of the hottest days so far this summer and we appreciate you joining us for this solemn event.
The Upshur County Commission has partnered with the National Counties Association and the West Virginia County Commissioners Association and now has a flag drop box in the lobby of the County Annex. Upshur County Courthouse located at 38 W. Main Street. Collection boxes are a place for residents to properly dispose of unusable American flags. The local VFW Post 3663 is also part of the initiative to allow for the proper disposal of unusable American flags. “Ragged, worn and dirty flags are generally considered unusable,” said American Legion Post 7 Commander Mike Wallace, “If anyone has a flag that is no longer usable, you can drop it off at The American Legion or if you know of an MP will pass it on to them and I’m sure we’ll take care of it.