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How do you dispose of old flags?

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When Old Glory is torn and tattered, it’s time to bring in a replacement. But what are you supposed to do with the old flag? A proper retirement involves burning the flags. 

Holy Spirit Church in Annandale and Church of the Nativity in Burke are collecting worn U.S. flags to be retired at Holy Spirit School, 8800 Braddock Rd., Annandale, Nov. 8 at 7:30 p.m. 

The ceremony will be conducted by the Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus Msgr. Francis L. Bradican Assembly No. 2996 and the Boy Scouts. 

In addition to retiring the flags with dignity, the ceremony recognizes selected veterans, first responders and clergy, presenting them with new flags that were flown over cemeteries or monuments, such as the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Md.

“We started this ceremony in 2008 and it provides a dignified and honorable way for retiring flags,” said Bob Rose, a Knight and parishioner of Holy Spirit. “It also is a community service since many people have an old used flag that has done its service, and they have no knowledge of or way for proper retirement.”

Honorees in attendance will include clergy, deacons, and Nativity parishioner Ronald J. Shurer who recently was presented the Medal of Honor by President Donald Trump. The West Point Alumni Glee Club will sing patriotic songs to open the ceremony and a student from St. Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax will play taps.  

A 50-gallon barrel with a burn cage is used to retire the flags outside the gym of Holy Spirit School. 

The ceremony will include two traditions for the ceremonial incineration. One flag is cut into the blue field with stars, and the 13 red and white stripes. The flag is retired by each of the 14 segments. The 14th segment is the blue field with the stars. 

A roll call for each stripe of the flag is conducted — Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island. 

The other flags are folded into a triangle, such as those presented to the families of fallen service members. The ashes of the retired flags are buried. 

“(The ceremony) is important to our principle of patriotism in the Fourth Degree Knights,” said Rose. 

If you go

To retire old flags, drop them off at Church of the Nativity, 6400 Nativity Ln., Burke, and Holy Spirit Church, 8800 Braddock Rd., Annandale, by Nov. 4.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018