Boy Scout Troop 154 Conducts Flag Burning Ceremony

Troop #154 scouts salute the flag as the sections are reverently burned. Photos: Jim Zeitler.

Submitted by Jim Zeitler.

Boy Scout Troop 154 at the end of last year assisted the American Legion with the proper disposal of dozens of American flags with a Flag Retirement Ceremony.

Although many of us know proper methods for displaying the flag, a much smaller number know the proper method for retiring the U.S. flag. The Boy Scout troop was approached by representatives of the American Legion for assistance since flag bins at the Town Hall were filled with old and tattered flags. The BSA is one of a small number of organizations that are familiar with the formal steps involved when retiring American Flags.

Flag Retirement is the term used to define the proper, dignified way of destroying United States flags that are no longer fit to serve the nation. Boy Scouts recognize the importance of treating our country’s symbols, such as the flag, with respect and dignity. Public Law 94-344, known as the Federal Flag Code, contains rules for handling and displaying the U.S. flag. It states: “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

Senior Patrol Leader Sean Healy leads the flag retirement ceremony.

Sean Healy, Senior Patrol Leader of BSA Troop 154, led both the preparation and execution of this ceremony, organizing the scouts to perform the flag retirement ceremony according to well established guidelines that have been used for almost 100 years. As a seasoned leader, Sean patiently explained the ceremony to the young scouts in his patrol and also led the retirement ceremony using time honored scouting traditions.

The planning started weeks prior to the evening camping event, when a local VFW first contacted BSA Troop #154. The scouts quickly organized and prepared for the solemn and symbolic steps included to honor one of our nation’s most important symbols. Planning the location required a safe camping environment with a fire pit that was reserved exclusively for the ceremony. With 15 scouts participating, the ceremony was conducted at Camp Oak Spring in Somerset. Younger scouts helped to prepare the flag by carefully cutting each flag into three sections. The fire was also prepared in advance so that it was mainly embers when the ceremony started.

Ben Keane, Sam K, Dalton Vassanella, Carlos Guzman, who is Assistant Scout Master of Troop 154, Matt Fernell and Ian Atkins carefully prepare flags for retirement by cutting the flags into sections.

As pictured, scouts carefully cut and divided the flag, with the red stripes cut and separated from the white stripes and the blue field of stars cut out but left completely intact – symbolizing the unity of our nation. The 90-minute ceremony included a recitation of parts of the US Flag Code, an inspirational reading of the poem “I am the Flag”, and then the solemn burning of white and red strips separately, and then the last the blue field of stars. Scouts were careful to ensure that every fragment burned and then they allowed the fire to burn out completely. Once finished, the fire pit was then set aside and was not used for cooking for the remainder of their overnight camping trip, as a sign of respect for our flag.

Do you have an old flag? Cleaning it regularly can extend the flag’s life considerably. Once your flag has reached a point where it is no longer fit for display, Franklin Township has two large disposal bins located in the foyer of the Franklin Township Municipal building.


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