Tattered, torn and discolored – Flags retired from duty

Ceremony teaches honor, respect for most revered American symbol

Flags are prepared for the retirement ceremony.

The last person one might expect to see burning an American Flag is a veteran of the armed forces or a boy scout. But if you happened past the Texas Civil War Museum last weekend, the blaze and smoke could have been seen from Loop 820 and afar. A number of United States flags were being burned by members of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, General J.J. Byrne Camp #1 with the assistance of local Cub and Boys Scout troops.

However, these men and boys weren’t holding a protest. Instead, the group was performing a public service, retiring old flags that had been passed on to the camp for the official service.

Officers from the camp and attendees gathered in the east end of the Texas Civil War Museum parking lot to perform the prescribed ritual before honorably retiring the flags that had been made unserviceable by age.

“Commander, since these flags have become unserviceable in a worthy cause, I recommend they be honorably retired from further service,” said member Russ Bryan.

The service included an opening prayer by Camp Chaplain, Dennis Partrich. Almost as if planned, two U.S. military jets from the NAS JRB flew overhead at the conclusion of the singing of the Star Spangled Banner.

“A flag may be a flimsy bit of printed gauze, or a beautiful banner of finest silk. Its value may be trifling or great; a free nation of free men and women, true to faith of the past, and devoted to the ideals and practice of Justice, Freedom, and Democracy. It represents all of our nation’s defenders in all conflicts lived for, sacrificed for, and died for,” read Bryan from the script at the ceremony.

Sons of the American Revolution member James Alderman invited two local scouts up to assist him in the retiring of the flags.

“The U.S. flag is more than just some brightly colored cloth, it is a symbol of our nation,” Alderman said.

Before being burned, each stripe of the flag was cut into a solid strip. The blue canton square with the 50 stars was also cut out and folded into a triangle.

“We separate the 13 strips that represent the original 13 colonies, and the 50 stars to pay homage to the 50 states that together make up this great nation,” said Alderman.

Boy Scout Ted Herman from Troop 350 and Cub Scout Lawson Steuart from Troop 435 carried each of the banded strips to a roaring fire just a few feet away. Military Veterans and scouts saluted as each stripe was placed into the burning flames. The folded triangles of stars were kissed before being placed into the fire.

Both Boy and Girl Scouts joined Susan Pena at the conclusion of the ceremony to sing “God Bless America.”

Approximately 25 flags were retired during the service.