The American Legion’s tradition of retiring unusable flags on Flag Day continued this year, with somewhere between 9,000 and 12,000 flags being burned Thursday evening.

Ceremonial burning is the preferred method of disposing of an American flag that is no longer fit for service.

The legion accepts worn-out flags from organizations throughout a wide area for the ceremony, and it is always well-attended. It is always a very somber and touching ceremony. Well over 100 people from the area were at the ceremony this year.

The ceremony began with two skydivers from Fastraxx descending onto the Legion grounds, each carrying a large American flag.

The featured speaker was County Auditor John Federer. He related the story behind the composition of the Star Spangled Banner. He also related the story of Robert Heft, a Lancaster, Ohio High School student who, in 1958 when Alaska and Hawaii were nearing statehood, designed a 50-star flag as part of a school project. His design was submitted to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Heft’s design was designated the official national flag in 1960.

It took two days to hang the flags on cables. “We worked all day Monday and Tuesday,” said Dave Suther, who always helps hang the flags.

“Then the Springfield American Legion dropped off 30 boxes, another thousand and some flags, so we ended up working three days this year,” said Suther.

After the flags are hung, they are doused with about 30 gallons of kerosene to help them burn faster.

He said about 15 people helped hang the flags, but it is getting harder to find people to help.

Part of the reason is the aging of the average Veterans organization member.

“All clubs are hurting,” said Suther. “We barely ever see anyone from the Persian Gulf, Iraq or Afghanistan conflicts.” He said Viet Nam War veterans are usually the youngest, and they are in their 60’s and 70’s.

Suther also said that the Legion receives excellent support when it comes to donating old flags, but he has trouble getting anyone to donate the kerosene.

The Pike Township Fire Department was on the scene as a precaution, and received a donation from the American Legion.

The American Legion post is always accepting flags for disposal. Just bring them to the Post at 2251 N. Dayton-Lakeview Rd., or call 845-0219 for more information.

 

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