“The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.” Section 8j of the Flag Code
I hung our flag out this morning, but today it meant a little more because it’s Flag Day. I don’t remember learning much about Flag Day from history classes, but I learned a lot about the respect and care for our flag from my son.
Nicholas was a scout for many years, earning the rank of Eagle Scout. Several times a year his troop would hold a flag burning ceremony. No, this wasn’t a throw-back to the 60’s when war protesters burned our flag. This was a way to respectfully dispose of worn and faded flags, and the community was invited to attend.
His troop has drop-off boxes throughout the city where people can deposit their old and tattered flags. These are collected and saved until a scheduled ceremony, and the ritual is something to witness.
It begins with the lighting of a small fire, not a big bonfire great for story-telling, but a simple blaze in a fire pit. On a table, the selected flags are folded as required, stacked and waiting. The boys work in teams of two or three, the older ones guiding the younger ones. In turn, each flag is unfolded in the prescribed manner. The blue field is cut away. Once that is removed, it is no longer considered our flag and the cloth can be burned. The square is carried by two scouts and laid across the logs. The stripes are then cut into long sections. Once the field is partially burned, the stripes are placed in the fire. Depending on the material, the colors either char into ashes or melt into nothing.
The most poignant part of the rite for me is the respect with which these boys carry out their duty. There is no horse-play or joking before or after, a rare occurrence considering the ages and personalities of these boys. There are no side conversations, lending a dignified solemnity to the ceremony. As they cut the flag and carry the pieces of cloth, the scouts remain as protective of them as they do our flag.
I thought about that this morning as I watched the bright colors snap in the breeze. For all our flag represents and for all those who defend it, I think it only fitting we have a special day set aside to remember it.