Off the Beat: A proper retirement for the U.S. flag

February 16, 2011 05:00 am

Brookings is lousy with flags.

The Stars and Stripes adorn many homes and businesses, cars, and even a few bicycles. Patriotic pride is clearly visible from almost any street corner.

But many of those flags are faded, tattered, ripped, or dirty, and in need of care or replacement. Sometimes I’m embarrassed by the way some so-called patriots treat the flag they wish to honor.

People leave the flag up, overnight, and leave it for months at a time. Many hang a flag near a bush or tree, where it catches on branches, gets caught up, and tears.

Rough weather is also a factor in damaging a flag.

“In this area, the American flags we display can receive some very  severe treatment from our weather,” Brookings Emblem Club member Glenda Weber said.

The U.S. flag code addresses the care of flags. Those rules help preserve flags, so they can wave longer, prouder, and brighter.

•Flags should be taken down at sunset, and hoisted at dawn, unless properly lit.

•Flags should not be displayed in inclement weather, unless using an “all-weather flag.”

•The flag should not be draped over the hood, top, sides or back of a vehicle, and should be attached to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.

•The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water or merchandise.

•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.

The entire U.S. Flag Code is available to view at www.usflag.org/uscode36.html.

Burning the flag has become a huge source of confusion for many Americans. Protesters who burn the flag  are vilified, but burning remains the preferred method of retirement.

When a flag is retired, it is not simply thrown on a barbecue, or into a fireplace or burn barrel. There is a traditional method.

First, the flag should be disassembled. The field of stars is separated from the stripes, and each stripe is separated.

Once the flag is disassembled, the portions of the former flag are fed to a bonfire, a large ceremonial outdoor fireplace or another safe and respectful venue.

The Brookings Emblem #265 will be holding the annual Flag Retirement Ceremony, Tuesday, March 8, at the Elks Lodge, 800 Elk Drive.  Flags must be received by March 7.

“All community members who wish to retire a flag are welcome to take it to the Elks Lodge,” Weber said. “This ceremony is to honor all those flags that we have proudly displayed on our homes, vehicles and yards.”

The Emblem Club’s service is important, to help clean up Brookings flags, and to show we can respect, as well as display, Old Glory.

I encourage every Curry County resident to inspect their flag. If it is dirty or dingy, wash it. If it is faded, ripped or has a ragged edge from being wind-whipped, please, bring your flag to the Emblem Club’s ceremony.

As I was taught, even printed flags on t-shirts, small stick-mounted parade flags, flag pins and flag patches on shirts should also be properly retired and never thrown in the trash.