U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps and Young Marines Help Retire Old Flags

Almost 2,500 worn American flags laid to rest

Once an American flag gets too tattered and torn the only proper way to dispose of it is through incineration. In Ohio, thick smoke rose from three huge fires fed by flags as youth from the Young Marines and U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps helped retire old flags that neared a total count around 2,500. The Operation Respect organization at the Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserves Center put forth the effort to collect all the torn and tattered flags for this annual event.

Child retires flag in fire

Derek Brauer, 16, a Sea Cadet and Junior at Sylvania Southwest High School said he was “just glad that there are people who are properly respecting the flag and taking care of them as best they can.” He was among the boys and girls who donated they time to help retire the stars and stripes. The ceremony began with a short prayer and then two groups passed the scissors around in order to take turns cutting out the white stars from the blue field of one very large flag.

After that came the smaller flags. The volunteers went through several boxes, each time trying not to let the flags touch the ground on their way to the flames. Operation Respect began in 2001 thanks to the brilliant mind of one Maj. James Nowak, chief of operations for the 4th Civil Support and Sustainment Brigade of the Ohio Military Reserve in Columbus. He was struck with the idea after seeing too many worn out American flags in the wake of the September 11th attacks. This annual event gives people a chance to respectfully dispose of their flags by dropping them off at a number of collection spots. Each year the event gathers between 2,000 and 3,000 American flags in need of a final resting place.

Marine Retiring stick flags

Nowak told reporters, “What especially pleases me is all these young people. They’re enthusiastic. They’re dedicated.” He was one of the adults in charge of monitoring the event. Occasionally this included saving a perfectly capable flag by plucking it from the fire pile.

Throughout this annual event, people helped retire old flags of all sizes. Some were massive, like the ones that wave above car dealerships, and some mini ones on small sticks. Another Sea Cadet Bradi Hill expressed her feelings for the event with, “It’s definitely great that we’re doing it, and it’s an honor to be a part of it.”

Credit: Toledo Blade

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