Patriotic symbols served their country. Now was the time to rest in peace.
Community members joined Scouts and their families for the annual meeting Flag removal ceremony tuesday, National Flag Day, at the Mount Zion Lions Club Park Foundation Pavilion. Two small controlled fires accepted each flag for their departure.
“This event is very important because we want to honor the symbol of our freedom and freedom,” said Troop Leader Kevin Johnson. “We also want to be sure that we treat him as respectfully as possible.”
Many flags were tattered and worn, faded or discolored. Some were small and could have been easily waved by a child, while others were large enough to hover over a building. Others were known to have been draped over a veteran’s coffin.
Boy Scout Carson Watts, 14, has attended previous ceremonies. “I feel a very deep sense of pride to be able to do this and everyone here is able to contribute,” he said. “And I’m very grateful to the veterans and the people who served us.”
According to Johnson, the official flag removal ceremony is described by the American Legion. “This flag removal ceremony is codified in US federal law,” he said. “We want to do everything we can to make sure we respect that and do it right.”
During the pandemic, the ceremony was held virtually with community members watching online. “We did the ceremony on Facebook Live,” Carson said.
Tuesday’s ceremony began with the presentation of the color guard. The audience joined in the chanting of the “Stars and Stripes” and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The poems “I am your flag” and “It is the soldier” were read by local scouts.
As the final flag was taken to the fire, “Taps” was played by 13-year-old scout Henry Blunt. “I only played there once,” he said.
The removed flags were picked up through drop off locations including Kenney’s Ace Hardware in Decatur, the Village Barbershop in Mount Zion, and VFW Post 99 in Decatur.
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The natural material flags were each unfolded by the scouts and their leaders, then placed above the open fires. Synthetic flags are eliminated using another technique, according to Johnson.
“Once the flags have passed through the ceremony, they are officially no longer flags,” he said. “But we have a controlled place where they will be burned. The fumes given off by synthetic flags tend to be toxic.
After the ceremony, Boy Scouts presented family members of the late Terry Bobbit and Malcolm Himes with 48-star American flags and other gifts. Bobbit was a member of the Dalton City American Legion. Himes was a longtime leader of Troop 43. The men were also military veterans.
“They were both instrumental in starting the first-ever flag-retiring ceremony here at Mount Zion at 43 Troop,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, within the past year, they have both passed away.”
According to the scouts, meeting for the ceremony was important to them as well as the result of the flags. “If it wasn’t for us, I believe these flags would sit and gather dust,” Carson said. “And it’s a great way to honor our country.”
“It’s also respectful to veterans who have served our country before,” Henry said.
Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR