‘They learn something’; Veterans educate Boys, Girls Scouts about flag etiquette and retiring the flag

Published 9:25 am Friday, June 15, 2018

Within seconds, an American flag was reduced into ashes within a fiery blaze, sending up sparks into the air.

For Flag Day on Thursday evening, the American Legion Post 91, VFW Post 1216 and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Austin chapter, folded around 500 old flags to retire from flying. Troops from Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts helped the veterans fold the flags into tight triangles—there are 13 folds for a proper triangle, each fold representing a special meaning — with only the dark blue and stars showing.

Girl Scout Troops learned how to properly fold an American flag at the American Legion, as a special burning ritual took place to “retire” some old flags that have faded or became tattered.

Once they finished folding the flag, they presented them to the veterans with a salute. Then, the veterans gently tossed the folded flags into the a burning oil barrel, symbolizing the end of a flag’s life and retired them.

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“Any red that shows is known as a ‘bleeding flag,’” according to Rollie Hanson, American Legion member. “We don’t want that.”

Each year, the VFW would host a retiring of the flag ritual, but this was the first time “in a while” that the American Legion hosted a burning. With an overwhelming amount of flags that were tattered or faded, the veterans would ask the public to donate the flags to the veterans organizations, so that the flags could be properly disposed.

Members of the Boy Scouts learned how to properly fold an American flag at the American Legion Post 91 on Thursday night.

“We don’t want to see the flags in garbage cans,” said Lee Dority, American Legion vice commander while carefully tossing a folded flag into the flames. “This is the proper way to dispose them.”

Ron Hanson, VFW Post 1216 color guard commander and Rollie’s brother, took several of the folded flags from the scouts who were there and properly disposed the flags in wisps of black and gray smoke. He believed that the children were getting an education on proper etiquette on how to handle the flag.

“Everyone here,” he pointed around, “ends up learning something.”

A pile of folded American flags sit in a pile, waiting to be “retired” in a special burning ritual at the American Legion Post 91 on Thursday night.

Although a flag can be retired at any point, the veterans wanted to choose dates that have more of a special meaning. Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the United States flag on June 14, 1777 by resolution of the Second Continental Congress. The second burning that the veterans groups planned was for Veterans Day this November.

It didn’t matter what size the flag was. If it represented the American flag, then they’d be folded in the same manner and retired into the flames.

Trinity Snater, 8, came with her Brownie Troop 48020, and learned how to fold the American flag. This was the first time she tried and learned more about the ritual that went behind retiring a flag. Her mother, Kasey Snater, was also there to witness the burning for the first time.

Trinity Snater, 8, and a member of the Girl Scouts Troop 48020, hands off a folded American flag she learned how to do herself to veteran Rollie Hanson of the American Legion Post 91 on Thursday night.

“I’ve never participated in retiring a flag,” Snater said. “But I learned how to respect the flag, and Trinity did too.”

‘I love it’

Hanson shared that he was pleased to see the younger generation come and help fold the American flags and witnessing the burning ritual.

“They respect the flag,” he added. “When I was over in Vietnam, and I saw the flag, it was as big as the sky. I love it.”

Shea and Kaleb Postema, 9-year-old brothers, help Rollie Hanson, veteran of the American Legion Post 91, fold old American flags that were burned in a special ritual that “retired’ them.