Retire that Flag… With Honor!

We all spend lots of time cleaning our boats, and spend great time polishing, waxing and keeping our boats shipshape. Often times though, you’ll see boats going by with that raggedy US Flag that has definitely seen better days. Why don’t you get a new flag? some people might ask. Often times, people don’t want to just throw that flag away because they don’t want to be disrespectful. While that is a sentiment we all share, we shouldn’t just “fly the flag”, we need to do it with respect and honor.

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.

The United States Flag Code, Title 4, Section 8k states-“The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem of display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

How do you know your flag should be retired? Sometimes your flag will only need to be cleaned to restore its original appearance. Regular cleaning of your flag can extend its life considerably. Flags can be machine-washed with a mild detergent in cold water. Flags should be hung to dry or laid flat. Do not fold the flag if it is damp. If it is possible, mend a tattered flag at early signs of wear. The edge furthest from the staff, known as the “fly” end is usually the first part of the flag to show wear. The fly end may start to unravel due to weather conditions.

It is really up to you to decide when your flag is ready to be retired. If the flag is unable to be repaired or is too tattered then the flag should be retired. There are many local organizations that will take your flag for proper retirement. If you choose to do so yourself, the proper procedure is described below.

Basic steps to retiring a flag:

  1. The flag should be folded in its customary manner.
  2. It is important that the fire be fairly large and of sufficient intensity to ensure complete burning of the flag.
  3. Place the flag on the fire.
  4. The individual(s) can come to attention, salute the flag, recite the Pledge of Allegiance and have a brief period of silent reflection.
  5. After the flag is completely consumed, the fire should then be safely extinguished and the ashes buried.
Enhancements to Basic Retiring program: – Using scissors handed out by the chaplain, cut the blue fields with the stars away from the red and white stripes — rendering them fit for disposal by fire.

When we disassemble the colors, it’s no longer a flag, and then you can burn the colors without disrespecting the flag. Burn each component separately: the blue field with stars, then the red stripes, then the white stripes, retiring the Colors. This is the only time the American flag and a pair of scissors are permitted to cross paths.

SlBYC is working with Boy Scout Pack 116, Den 3.,  to organize a Flag Retirement Ceremony to help people retire their flags with honor. Joan Palango who serves with BOA as an Advisory Board member representing the Seal Beach Yacht Club, brought this issue to our attention and we didn’t want to let the opportunity pass to let our members learn about this ceremony as well as the proper procedure to retire their flags. The idea is to work with boaters in the Long Beach Marinas and have them turn in their old flags so that the Boy Scouts can retire them properly. The ceremony would take place in June and details of the time and place will be advertised in our upcoming May issue. The ceremony will likely take place on or around Flag Day at the Sea Scouts facility in Alamitos Bay.

We will keep you informed of the exact date for the Boy Scout’s Flag Retirement Ceremony once it is final. SlBYC is working with Captain’s Locker to develop a program where boaters can turn in their old flags and purchase new ones. A percentage of the sales will be donated to help support the Scout’s organization. You will be able to drop off your old flag at Captain’s Locker after May and through June 10 for proper and dignified retirement.

For more information on the upcoming Flag Retirement Ceremony, check our May issue, subscribe to our website or contact Boy Scout Pack 116. Den 3. Laura Derose is the Scout Master and can answer questions regarding the upcoming ceremony. You can also contact Joan Palango at the SlBYC.



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