A Proper Retirement

By: Eddie Stephens | Category: Other | Issue: November 2006

(L to R) Major Mike McCartney, Guard Jesse Lamb, son of Mr. and Mrs. Dan and Mary Lamb, Honor Guard Commander Lawrence Brown, son of Gerald Brown, Heather O\'Neal, daughter of Christina O\'Neal, Anika Gann, daughter of Jewel Gann, Johnroy Crawford, son of John and Stacey Crawford

A flag waves as it is lifted by a slight breeze. The red, white and blue magnificently displayed overhead inspire all who look upon it, pausing to reflect on its symbolism.

We salute it, place hand over heart and remove hats out of respect for it, display it appropriately, and when the time arrives to retire it, we do so with dignity. It is our flag, our national colors and the banner of our most cherished American blessing – freedom!

Did you know there is nearly as much etiquette appropriate to retiring a flag as there is in displaying one? According to the United States Flag Code, when a flag is in such a condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, the flag should be destroyed in a dignified way.

Organizations throughout many American communities recognize this need, and thereby render a patriotic community service by collecting and overseeing the proper disposal of old, worn, tattered, frayed and/or faded U.S. Flags.

Musgrove-Merriott-Smith Funeral Service and Crematory, in partnership with the VFW, the American Legion Post of Claremore and local churches in Claremore, Inola and Chelsea are collecting flags for a ceremony on November 10. A Flag Retirement service will be held at 3 p.m. at their Inola location.

According to Frank Friedemann, Director of Family Services and event spokesperson, this is the event’s second year. At last year’s ceremony, 521 flags were retired.

“This is a unique event from a traditional standpoint. It’s touching, solemn, and patriotic to witness a flag symbolically retired.”

The Inola High School Air Force Junior ROTC will assist in the ceremony. They are led by Major McCartney and will be accompanied by the Inola High School Band. The 21 gun salute will be provided by the VFW 5th District rifle squad.

Anyone who has an American Flag that is soiled or damaged through years of display will be given the opportunity to know their flag is being retired with respect. Friedemann recognizes the need. “Many people keep their worn flag and aren’t sure what to do when it reaches that condition. This is a way to ceremonially and properly dispose of it.”

Although most Americans are unaware of how to properly retire a flag, they would find the procedure fascinating. Following are five steps to ceremonially retire Old Glory. These steps will be the protocol for the upcoming event in Claremore.

According to the National Flag Foundation (www.americanflags.org), proper etiquette is to be followed prior to burning and retiring an American Flag.

Step 1: Keep the flag off the ground and cut the canton containing the stars out of the flag.
Step 2: Cut the stripes apart.
Step 3: With dignity, put the stripes into the fire.
Step 4: Let the material burn completely.
Step 5: Place the canton into the fire and let it burn completely.

During the ceremony, it is appropriate and recommended that music, singing and/or patriotic comments are made about the flag’s symbolism. “The flag from our Inola location will be the representative symbol for this year’s ceremony and a new flag will be raised in its place,” according to Friedemann.

Jim and Cindy Smith, owners of Musgrove-Merriott-Smith Funeral Service and Crematory, have offered their private crematory in Inola, OK, to properly dispose of all flags collected. On Veteran’s Day (November 11) the ashes of these flags will be scattered on the graves of our veterans and fallen soldiers buried in Rogers County cemeteries.

“We propose this event to be a public ceremony each year. Our intention is to do something that will inspire pride in our great country,” says Frank.

Bring worn flags for the retirement ceremony to the following locations: Musgrove-Merriott-Smith Funeral Service & Crematory, 102 W. 5th St., Claremore; Inola Funeral Home & Crematory, 310 N. Broadway, Inola; Chelsea Funeral Home & Crematory, 601 Vine, Chelsea; Senior Centers in Inola and Chelsea; VFW and American Legion Posts in Chelsea and Claremore and Rogers County churches.

Jim and Cindy Smith, Frank Friedemann, and their Funeral Service locations are hopeful you will recognize the significance of this annual event. Equally so, they desire that all who are citizens of this great nation, show proper respect for our flag when it’s retired, and when it’s displayed.

For more information about proper flag etiquette log onto www.americanflags.org. Participate in this significant event on November 10 – it is our flag, our national colors and the banner of our most cherished American blessing – freedom!

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