Stars and Stripes Retired With 'Honor'
American Legion, Boy Scouts Hold Flag Day Event
By Terrill Covey
Hampton Union, Tuesday, June 18, 2002
HAMPTON — Flag Day is more than a day for flying the flag proudly outside your home. With flags displayed throughout the Seacoast and patriotism in abundance following Sept. 11, anything to do with honoring the country draws more attention than in past years.
The Hampton American Legion Post 35, along with Boy Scout Troop 177 and the Hampton Fire Department, sponsored a flag burning ceremony Friday night to honor and properly dispose of discarded flags.
Despite the rain, Post 35 Cmdr. Ralph Fatello said the turnout this year was noticeably higher than last year, as was the turnout at Memorial Day activities.
The ceremony began with a presentation of the flags to the commander, junior vice commander, and senior vice commander of the Post. Each Legion officer examines the flags and asks whether they served as "an emblem of the country" Once the flags' service to the country is verified they are placed on the fire.
"A flag may be a flimsy bit of printed gauze, or a beautiful banner of finest silk," said Fatello. "Its intrinsic value may be trifling or great; but it's 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 and women.
"Let these faded flags of our country be retired and destroyed with respectful and honorable rites and let their places be taken by bright new flags of the same kind and size. And let no grave of our soldier, sailor, or airman dead be unhonored and unmarked."
With the conclusion of Fatello's speech, the group that had gathered in the rain was lead in prayer before the first flag was laid onto the fire.
The Boy Scouts participated by placing the flags on the fire along with Legion members.
After the ceremonies. Fatello said in addition to the larger audience at this year's ceremony, there were also a lot more flags.
"Since Sept. 11, there has been a new wave of patriotism," Fatello said. "You see people have more respect for people in uniform. Not just the military, but police and firefighters, also. And people have shown it by waving new flags, which is one reason we have so many more here today."
Acting Junior Vice Cmdr. Joe Kutt said it is important that flags are properly destroyed on Flag Day.
"Flag Day is a day to honor the flag since it's beginning." he said. "A lot of people just throw their flags away or dispose of them in other ways, but this is the only way to do it properly. The flags should be burned with dignity and honor, to honor our country."
American Legion members and Boy Scout leaders were happy that the Boy Scouts could be a part of the day.
"We try to get the Scouts here to show them how important the day is, and how important it is to properly dispose of the flag." Kutt said.
"It's another sign of our country," Fatello said. "The Scouts are here every year, and they will tell their friends about it. There are World War II veterans and young Scouts here to honor and celebrate our flag."
Den leader for Troop 177 Alan Dorson said he feels it is important to get the children involved with Flag Day to teach them to be respectful of the flag.
"This is a part of it," he said. "They are here and they see the ceremony, and they gain an understanding of its importance."
"This is pretty cool," said Boy Scout Chris Marshall. "We're honoring the country and the flag, and burning the old flags that are ripped and torn."
Scout Devin Valtin also said he was glad to be a part of the ceremony so he could honor the people who fought for the country. "It is appropriate that young people be a part of the ceremony, as the holiday leads back to a school teacher in Fredonia, Wis."
B. J. Cigrand had his students celebrate "Flag Birthday" on June 14 in 1885. According the Flag Day heritage Web site, www.heritage-flagdayhtml, Cigrand's ideas spread throughout the country over the next 20-plus years before President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed May 30 (the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777) Flag Day. Finally, on Aug. 3,1949, President Harry Truman declared June 14 Flag Day.