Veterans lay old flags to rest during their flag retiring tradition despite stolen handmade fire basket
Every first Sunday in December American Legion Post 534 from Cincinnati retires torn and tattered American flags by the preferred congressional method of burning. All veterans take this patriotic traditional ceremony very seriously and consider it a great honor. Members give a 21-gun salute, while an honor guard stands at attention. The overused stars and stripes are then burned in a rectangular wrought-iron fire basket made special by a Legion member.
This year was no exception for the flag retiring tradition, excluding one distinctive part: thieves stole the handmade fire basket. The unknown perpetrators broke the wrought-iron from its concrete base. In fact, they ripped it completely from the ground and hauled it away. The Legion wishes this was an isolated occurrence, but unfortunately this is the second year in a row someone swiped the basket.
Legion veterans concluded the only possible reason to steal this basket is to sell it for scrap. They definitely worked hard for a very tiny amount of iron. Mike Bender, the post’s adjutant and commander of Hamilton County’s 22 posts, described the precautions taken after the first basket last year went missing. “We sunk the basket in two feet of concrete,” he said as he started to calculate just how much financial gain the thieves received.
“Let’s say they were working minimum wage about half-hour, for $1.50 of scrap metal. The closest scrapyard to our post is 15 miles away. At about $3.50 for a gallon of gas, those idiots probably made a profit of a negative $7.74.” Unfortunately, the same people that steal fire baskets probably are not known for their superior mathematical skills, or patriotism for that matter.
The basket is small time crook work compared to what some thieves took from the Legion at the end of September. Someone cut out the copper in the air-conditioning units at the Legion. The veterans fenced off the cooling units, because the same offense happened a year early, costing $3000 to fix. This time the units were completely ruined and will cost $17,000 to replace.
The post has many needy projects and very shallow pockets. Members of the Legion hope to raise $50,000 to rebuild the long-gone Riverside Honor Roll. This monument once held the names of 252 Riverside residents that went off to WWII, but disappeared during a road widening project.
The long string of thefts is not isolated to the Legion alone. “Things are bad in this neighborhood,” Bender revealed with a sigh. He served in the Army from 1971-1974 in order to “honor other veterans, to show respect for the flag, and to serve our country.” He did not go to protect America from copper and iron stealing thieves. But nothing will stop these strong-willed and patriotic veterans from continuing their flag retiring tradition.
Credits: Cincinnati News