With Veterans Day just last week, MyRye.com spoke with Tim Moynihan of Rye’s American Legion Post 128 to ask him about how residents should properly dispose of old, unserviceable American flags.
What makes a US flag unserviceable?
Moynihan: When a flag has served its useful purpose, it should be destroyed, preferably by burning. For individual citizens this should be done discreetly so that the act of destruction is not perceived as a protest or desecration.
What is the correct way for a person or business to dispose of a US flag?
Moynihan: Many American Legion posts such as the one in Rye conduct Disposal of Unserviceable Flag Ceremonies on June 14, Flag Day, each year. This ceremony creates a particularly dignified and solemn occasion for the disposal of unserviceable flags. The Rye American Legion Post has a painted mailbox in Rye City Hall in which citizens can leave their unserviceable flags. It’s near the finance office in City Hall. The Rye American Legion Post collects them from that mailbox regularly and then conducts Unserviceable Flag ceremonies as volume dictates.
Does the Rye American Legion Post 128 collect flags for proper disposal?
Moynihan: Rye citizens can leave them in the Unserviceable Flag mailbox in Rye City Hall.
What is involved – what happens – during an unserviceable flag ceremony?
Moynihan: The purpose of The American Legion in adopting the Unserviceable Flag Ceremony was to encourage proper respect for the Flag of the United States and to provide for disposal of unserviceable flags in a dignified manner. The post assembles in meeting, out-of-doors, at night. Members are aligned in two parallel rows about 20 feet apart, facing each other. Officers are at their stations. A small fire is burning opposite the commander and beyond the rows of members. (Note: this is always coordinated with local fire department and other officials)
The Unserviceable flags are presented to the Commander who then says: “A Flag may be a flimsy bit of printed gauze, or a beautiful banner of finest silk. Its intrinsic value may be trifling or great; but its real value is beyond price, for it is a precious symbol of all that we and our comrades have worked for and lived for, and died for a free Nation of free men, true to the faith of the past, devoted to the ideals and practice of Justice, Freedom and Democracy. Let these faded Flags of our Country be retired and destroyed with respectful and honorable rites and their places be taken by bright new Flags of the same size and kind, and let no grave of our soldier or sailor dead be unhonored and unmarked. Sergeant-at-Arms, assemble the Color Guard, escort the detail bearing the Flags and destroy these Flags by burning. The members shall stand at attention.”
A few words are said by the Chaplain: “Almighty God, Captain of all hosts and Commander over all, bless and consecrate this present hour. We thank Thee for our Country and its Flag, and for the liberty for which it stands. To clean and purging flame we commit these Flags, worn out in worthy service. As they yield their substance to the fire, may Thy Holy Light spread over us and bring to our hearts renewed devotion to God and Country. Amen.”
Then, all officers and members except those on the Flag detail salute. Members of the Flag detail dip the condemned Flags in kerosene and place them on a rack over the fire.