God Bless America: An Independent examination of ‘Old Glory’

Posted 7/29/20

In June 1777, the Continental Congress established its official flag --- a beacon of hope for a young nation born in defiance of an oppressive regime.

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God Bless America: An Independent examination of ‘Old Glory’

Clarence Rich and Steve Witting of Legion Post 61 dropped off a flat-bed trailer of flags to be retired, alongside Frank Adelman from Legion Post 94 who brought a car filled with flags.
Clarence Rich and Steve Witting of Legion Post 61 dropped off a flat-bed trailer of flags to be retired, alongside Frank Adelman from Legion Post 94 who brought a car filled with flags.
[Photo by Jennifer Jimenez]

In June 1777, the Continental Congress established its official flag --- a beacon of hope for a young nation born in defiance of an oppressive regime.

The flag flown today consists of 13 alternating horizontal stripes separated by the colors red and white. The stripes represent the original 13 colonies; the stars, the 50 states of the Union. The red of the flag symbolizes hardiness and valor. The white, purity and innocence and the color blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.

The American flag is displayed throughout the United States, but for most people, the journey of an United States flag --- from display to proper retirement --- is unknown.

According to the Public Broadcasting Company, there are several guidelines when properly displaying the American flag, including the flag being displayed daily and on all holidays, weather permitting, and on the main administration buildings of all public institutions.

Additionally, the American flag ought to be displayed in or near every polling place on election days and in or near every schoolhouse during school days. Also, when displaying an American flag flat against a wall or window or vertically, the field of stars should be the uppermost and to the left of the person viewing it.

Additionally, all American flags should be displayed from sunrise to sunset every day, but flags can remain flying for 24 hours if it is properly illuminated during all hours of darkness. According to the website usa.gov, during a time of national mourning, the flag should hang at half-mast.

Per the United States Code, Title 4, Chapter 1-The Flagdignity, if the flag is damaged or worn out, it should be disposed of with dignity, preferable by burning. Additionally, it states the flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.

Various organizations have programs in place in order to uphold the pride of the American flags on display. The Automotive/Restoration Club of Sun City West is a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity and operates several community services programs including flag patrol.

Ron and Joyce Rada built out a Ford Model A back in 2018 and have been going out replacing worn flags ever since.

“The Model A is a patriotic-themed car and we like to drive it around and give back by removing battered flags and replacing them with new,” Mr. Rada said. “When I am driving around if I see a flag I will jot down the address of flags I see that need to be replaced and other people are getting the word out, but mainly the discovery comes from us. We only take the Model A out every couple of weeks and we have fun doing that.”

After Mr. Rada collects the tattered flags, the Sun City West Posse is where the flags travel to next in order to get properly disposed of.

“It’s a matter of pride if someone wants to fly our flag, it needs to be a good one,” Mr. Rada explained. “The vast majority of people thank us for doing it.”

Final Stop

Frank Adelman is a member of Mary Ellen Piotrowski Post 94 and a 22-year retired member of the Sun City West Posse and is involved in getting them to the final destination. Mr. Adelman said the Properties Owners & Residents Association of Sun City West, the Sun City West Foundation, as well as the Posse are all places flags are picked up from.

“From there we take them to Sunland Memorial Cemetery where we house them in a little shed prior to retirement,” he explained. “There is an organization called the Northwest Valley Veterans Association which is made up of all the military veteran service associations. Each month the group assigns organizations to go out when the shed is full and retire them.”

Mr. Adelman said the flags are incinerated and the ashes from the flags buried, which is the proper way to retire an American flag that is beyond use.

“There is a ceremony that usually goes along with the incinerating of the flags, but we don’t do it every time, only if there is a scout troop interested in learning more,” he said.

Mr. Adelman said all flags are accepted and often after veterans pass the flags are given to Legion Post 94. Those flags have the name, rank and date of birth and death written on the white end that goes up on the rope and are flown on R.H. Johnson Boulevard for eight national holidays.

“We have been retiring flags for several years,” said Dan Salter with Sunland Memorial Park, 15826 N Del Webb Blvd. The Northwest Valley Veterans Association retires flags that they have delivered to them for retirement and we add flags that we gather from throughout the metro area from sister locations. Retirement is done depending on volume.”

Members from the American Legion Post 61, 35 N. Dysart Road, in Avondale delivered a flat-bed full of flags to be properly disposed of.

“In this load we have about 1,300 flags that were collected or brought in to be retired,” club manager Steve Witting said. “I have been a member for 16 years and have been doing this for quite some time.”

American Legion Post 44, 7145 E. 2nd St., in Scottsdale, also collects flags ready for retirement and according to Commander Mike Ragole, weekly flags are brought in to the post.

“We have a committee of three trustees who will go out to Sun City where there has been a set up that allows for respectful burning and we also burn one on Flag Day and hang a new one on June 14,” he explained. “The intent we do on these is standard protocol American Legion set up and we collect any flags that need to be destroyed and take care of it.”

Mr. Ragole said the federal code for flags calls for the proper disposal and the post is following the law.

Additionally, the post will replace flags for senior organizations that express a need. A replacement ceremony is done and the old flag becomes the responsibility of the post in conjunction with the honor guard.

Proper Display Etiquette

  • Gold Eagles cap on top of American flag only
  • Flag does not need to be destroyed if it touches the ground.
  • No flag should be displayed above the American flag except during church services by naval chaplains at sea.
  • Flag is half-staffed on Memorial Day from sunrise until noon and full-staff from noon until sunset.
  • Flags can only be ordered half-staff by the president of the United States or by the governor of any state, territory or possession.

Mr. Ragole said one of the pillars of the American Legion is to take responsibility of Americanism and it’s done so vigorously. “The American Legion fought unsuccessfully to make it a Constitutional Amendment against flag burning,” he added.

Reporter Jennifer Jimenez can be reached at jjimenez@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter @SCW_Independent.