Ashes in the Wind - The Proper Disposing of Our Nation's Flags

  • Published
  • By TSgt Becky Vanshur
  • 124th Wing Public Affairs Office
Members of the 124th Fighter Wing Honor Guard here led a rare ceremony here June 6 to properly retire several of our Nation's flags.

The Honor Guard has many respectable roles and traditions to uphold. This is another duty they are proud to be a part of. Members also used the ceremony as an opportunity to teach others about the proper way to dispose of a flag, including members of the 124th Student Flight, the wing' s newest members who are awaiting basic training dates but who participate in drill weekends.

Many military members do not know how the military would dispose of these grand flags. It can be an emotional time. These old, weathered and tattered flags represent the history of our Unit, our great Nation and our pride toward both. This is why after all these years, we have held on to these flags, never disposing of them until now with the proper respect, said honor guard member Senior Master Sgt. Tammy Clement.

A crowd gathered to watch the ceremony. As a sign of respect, photography and video documentation is never allowed, Sergeant Clement said.

As a military member it is important to understand the flag, its purpose and the reason we dispose of them in such an honorable way. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing, which is why a part of the ceremony is to detach the blue Union from the red and white stripes. This ensures it is no longer a living and functioning flag and may then be disposed of properly. The proper way to dispose of the flag is to burn it, starting with the red and white strips and separately burn the Union. A large group assisted in the flag disposal ceremony and no part of any flag was allowed to touch the ground; it was received by waiting arms and hands, passed along to its final rest.

After the flags are completely burned to ashes, they are spread over an appropriate and respected piece of land.

"The ashes have to be scattered and we have a large box of flags to be disposed of. We are going to put all the ashes into one barrel and scatter them in the wind," Sergeant Clement said.

The 124th Wing Honor Guard spread the ashes over the empty field adjacent to the firing range at Gowen Field. 

"No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America." 
Section 8 of the U.S. Flag Code

How should you dispose of a U.S. flag that is beyond repair, old, worn, or weathered?

For Civilians the answer is to give it to your local government, Military Base, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, American Legion Post or VFW to dispose of by burning in a dignified manner.

For Military members the answer is to give it to your local Honor Guard.

To read more on the Flag's Code Rules and Regulations visit the website: http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/flagcode.htm

For more information on our Nation's Flag visit the website: http://www.usa-flag-site.org 

http://www.americanflagdisposal.com/flag_recycling.html provides more information on flag disposal.