Like many things in life, an American flag will eventually reach the point where it needs to be retired. But with the flag’s powerful sentimental and symbolic value, the stars and stripes cannot simply be thrown away.
An American flag that will wave no more must be burned.
The national Flag Code says a flag, when it is in such a condition that it is not fitting for display, should "be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning."
Such a ceremony took place May 31 under a remarkably beautiful sunset at Chatfield State Park, when local Boy Scout Troop 640 retired more than a dozen flags.
Troop leader Rick White told the assembled Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts — along with their families, who were also celebrating the advancing of most of the Scouts to the next level — that the troop's flag retirement tradition began in 2007.
The Scouts were gathered around a small fire, and the flags were unfolded and placed on the fire one by one. As the nylon of the flags went from faded red, white and blue to black, other troop leaders read excerpts from patriotic poems, speeches from presidents, and the Declaration of Independence.
"We wanted to dispose of the flags properly," said Brenda Kiang, the Stony Creek Elementary site director for Foothills Park & Recreation District's before- and after-school program. The district donated many of the flags that were retired. "We knew they had to be burned, but didn't know the right way to do it."
Kiang said most of the flags Foothills donated were 5 or 6 years old. Most were visibly frayed and tattered at their ends.
For Kiang, it was nice to see the flags retired in a dignified way.
"I'm impressed with how they did that," Kiang said. "It was very moving to see the right way to burn a flag."