Annual American flag retirement ceremony coincides with Pearl Harbor Day as VFW retires lost flag
From Plains, Montana, the Veterans of Foreign Wars post #3596 conducted its 9th annual flag retirement ceremony also matched up with Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. A local vet, Ben French, read a passage aloud as his other comrades silently placed their flags and pieces of flags into the fire, demonstrating their pride for the stars and stripes has never been stronger.
But just how exactly does the VFW collect so many American flags each year? “A lot of people just bring them in to the club [throughout the year]. We store them until Pearl Harbor Day and every year we retire the flags that are too worn or torn to fly,” explained Joe Eisenbrandt, the posts quartermaster.
According the United States flag code, out of respect an American flag must be retired when it becomes too damaged from time and weather. Flags represent America and when they can no longer best symbolize this country, retirement is necessary.
Among the flags laid to rest was one extra special American flag from the previous Sanders County Fairgrounds. This flag flew its first flight in 1995 and was sadly stolen in 1996. Maintenance staff from the fairgrounds reported the flag was stolen on a rainy night, and with the combination of water, must have weighted close to 150 pounds. Now 15 years later, the flag resurfaced draped over a tree on Mt. Baldy. However, due to its tattered nature retirement was the only next step for this Old Glory.
Due to the massive size of this flag, the veterans cut it into smaller pieces to make the burning process easier. As each veteran dropped a stripe in the fire, French recited a name of one of the 13 original colonies it represented. Once all flags were properly disposed, retired Air Force Don Brown played “taps.” Another fellow vet from the Navy/Air Force Jim Beaver said, “It was something that everyone should see once because it reminds you what the flag is. People often forget that.”