Ceremony for Proper Disposal of U.S. Flag
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@CAPACCESS.ORG)
Sun, 15 Oct 1995 03:16:47 -0400
I encourage you to take Bill up on taking a look at the Flag Destruction
ceremonies available at http://www.HiWAAY.net/hyper/Scouts.
There continues to be a feeling by some folks that a flag destruction
ceremony is somehow not in keeping with the law or otherwise proper. Let
me offer up part of a previous posting on the subject, which may be helpful.
The American Legion publishes a phamplet called "Let's be Right on Flag
Etiquette (American Legion, National Emblem Sales, P.O. Box 1050,
Indianapolis, Indiana 46206) which is distributed by their National
Americanism Commission. At page 18 the American Legion states:
"Q. How are unservicable Flags destroyed?
"A. The code suggests that, 'when a Flag has served its useful purpose,
it should be destroyed, preferably by burning'. For individual citizens
this should be done discretely so that the act of destruction is not
perceived as a protest or desecration. Many American Legion Posts hold
Flag Disposal Ceremonies on June 14 Flag Day each year. This
ceremony creates a particularly dignified and solemn occasion for the
retirement of unusable Flags. (Sec. 176)(k)"
Seems like the American Legion supports Flag Disposal Ceremonies similar
to the one written up by F. Willard Vickery "With Honor and Dignity"
Scouting Magazine, May/June 1993 at page 34.
The U.S. Code 30 USC 176 does not prohibit such ceremonies. Nothing in
the statute requires that the destruction of the flag be in private. Another
statute 18 USC 700 specifically points out that any conduct consisting of
the disposal of a Flag when it has become worn or soiled is not a
desecration of the Flag. Merl Whitebook had some good ideas on flag
destruction ceremonies in a previous posting, which follows:
Color Guard comes forward, Troop at attention:
Some people call me "Old Glory"
Others call me the "Star Spangled Banner"
But whatever they call me, I am your Flag,
The Flag of the United States of America....
Something has been bothering me, so I thought I might talk it over with
you... because it is about you.... and me.
I remember some time ago people lined up on both sides of the street to watch
a parade, and naturally I was leading every parade, proudly waiving in the
breeze. When your Daddy saw me coming, he immediately removed his hat and
placed it against his left shoulder, so that his hand was directly over his
And you, I remember you. Standing there straight as a soldier. You didn't
have a hat, but you were giving the right salute. Remember little sister?
Not to be outdone, she was saluting the same as you, with her hand over her
What happened? I'm still the same old flag. Oh, I have a few more stars now
and a lot more blood has been shed since those days long ago. But now I
don't feel as proud as I used to. When I come down the street you just stand
there with your hands in your pockets, and I may get a small glance, but then
you look away.
Then I see children running around and shouting; they don't seem to know who
I am.... I saw one man take off his hat, then he looked around and saw no
one else with their hat off, so he quickly put his hat back on.
Is it a sin to be patriotic now? Have you forgotten what I stand for?
And where I've been? Anzio....Normandy... Quadalcanal.... Iwo Jima.....
Korea..... Vietnam.... and the Persian Gulf?
Take a look at the Memorial Honor Rolls sometime. Note the names of those
who never came back; they died to keep this republic free... One Nation Under
When you salute me... you are actually saluting them.
Well, it won't be long now until I'll be coming down your street again....
So when you see me, stand straight, place you right hand over you heart, and
I'll salute you by waiving back.... and I'll know....
Color Guard, retire the flag....
After the entire flag has burned... At ease or "to"... Color Guard dismissed.
FLAG RETIREMENT CEREMONY
1 Flag - worn, tattered and soled, one medium fire. Take the flag and cut out
the blue field with the stars, then cut the flag up into smaller pieces
sothat each participant can have a piece to lay on the fire.
NARRATOR - Our flag is the symbol of our country. Have you ever stopped to
think what the flag really means?
The Blue in our flag stands for valor which our ancestors fought and died for
inthe many battles that have been fought for our country and all for
which it stands.
The White stands for the purity in all of our hearts. It also represent the
honor that each of us should show in all that we do in our everyday lives.
The Red stands for all of the men and women who have died in the service of
our country, both as members of the armed forces and as everyday citizens.
Our flag has gone into every battle into which thre have been United States
citizens, fromthe American Revolution to the Civil War, to WW I, to WW
II, to the Korean Conflict the Viet Nam War to the Desert Storm.
It has flown over some battles that were never declared, such as Beruit whre
the Marine Barracks was blown up by terrorists and the Alfred Murrah Building
in Oklahoma City a short time ago.
In all of these, we the American peiople have stayed true to the vlaues that
the Flag represents. We should always value the sacrifices that have been
made for our flag and the country that it represents.
We have an old friend here who has fulfilled his duty to our country. He has
become worn and tattered and we are here tonight to retire him with honor.
We shouldn't be sad about the retirement of our friend. We are not burning
him in anger, we are only releasing his spirit so that he can continue to
serve us in our thoughts.
Now I would invite each of you to take a piece of cloth fromthe box being
passed around and eachof you in turn place it on the fire. You can pause for
a moment to reflect upon what the flag means to eachof us and remember the
167 people who lost their lives in OKC, some working in the service of our
countyr and others as AMERICAN citizens. Thank you.
Written by Roger Newton, Indian Chiefs District, Indian Nations Council,
Flag Burning Ceremony
"No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United State of America;
The Flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem
for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning"
Color Guard enters in silence, displaying unfurled flag to the troop.
(The flags colors are being separated during the reading.)
I AM YOUR FLAG
I was born on June 14, 1777
I am more than cloth shaped into a design.
I am the refuge of the world's oppressed people.
I am the silent sentinel of Freedom.
I am the emblem of the greatest sovereign nation on earth.
I am the inspiration for which American Patriots gave their lives and
I have led your sons in to battle from Valley Forge to the blistering desert
of the Arabian Peninsula.
I walked in silence with each of your honored dead to their final resting
place beneath the silent white crosses, row upon row.
I have flown through peace and war, strife and prosperity, and amidst it all
I have been respected.
"Old Glory" is my nickname; proudly I wave on high. Honor me. respect me,
defend me with your lives and fortunes. Never let my enemies tear me down
from my lofty position lest I never return. Keep alight the fires of
patriotism, strive earnestly for the spirit of democracy. Worship Eternal
God and keep his commandments, and I shall remain the bulwark of peace of
freedom for all people.
FOR I AM YOUR FLAG!
(Stop here until the colors are completely separated. the continue)
My red stripes symbolize the blood spilled in defense of the glorious nation.
Let us retire the Red Stripes--Salute!
(burn the red stripes)
My white stripes signify the burning tears shed by Americans who lost their
Let us retire the White Stripes --Salute
My blue field is indicative of God's heaven under which we fly. My stars,
clustered together, unify 50 States as one for God and Country.
Let us retire the Blue Field with Stars.--Salute.
Color Guard files out in silence.
Flag Burning Ceremony
1. Display the old flag, give its history, if known,
2. Pledge of Allegiance Respect paid to the old flag -- read aloud
"I AM OLD GLORY"
I am old glory; for more the 9 score years I have been the banner of hope and
freedom for generation after generation of Americans. Born amid the first
flames of America's fight for freedom, I am the symbol of a country that has
grown from a little group of 13 colonies to a united nation of 50 sovereign
states. Planted firmly on the high pinnacle of American Faith, my gently
fluttering folds have proved an inspiration to untold millions. Men have
followed me into battle with unwavering courage. They have looked upon
me as a symbol of national unity. They have prayed that they and their
fellow citizens might continue to enjoy the life, liberty and pursuit of
happiness,which have been granted to every American as the heritage of
free men. So long as men love liberty more than life itself, so long as
they treasure the priceless privileges bought with the blood of our
forefathers; so long as the principles of truth, justice and charity for
all remain deeply rooted in human hearts, I shall continue to be the
enduring banner of the United States of America.
3. Explain to the ensemble what will happen next, and a little word or two
about it. Taps are hummed slowly while the flag is cut up. The ABSOLUTE
4. Color Guards cuts the field of blue stars out of the flag, with solemnity
a quiet. This field of flue is put onto the fire first. The stripes are
laid into the fire when the stars are almost fully consumed.
5. There is absolute silence until the entire flag is completely consumed by
6. Then the color guard, with meaning, says, 'OUR FLAG REST IN PEACE."
Flag Burning Ceremony
Group says together: Pledge of Allegiance the sing America
(my Country Tis of Thee)
Color of the flag: Remember as you look at your Flag, which is the symbol of
our nation, that it is red because of human sacrifice. It is blue
because of the true blue loyalty of its defenders. It is white to
symbolize liberty - our land of the free. The stars are symbols of the
united efforts and hope in the hearts of many people striving for a
greater nobler America.
Hold the Flag Up: Optional - at this point, each person in the audience or
participating in the ceremony, may state what the Flag means to them. Sing:
Another appropriate song may be sung (optional) Procedure for Flag Burning:
(a pair of scissors should be on hand) Take the flag and unfold. Place stars
(as audience sees it) in the upper left hand corner. (One minute of silent
meditation may be inserted if desired).
Then either cut or tear the position of the blue containing the stars from
the flag. Have one person hold the blue in her arms until the end of the
ceremony because the blue and stars is the last part of the flag to be
burned. Now tear one stripe off at a time. burn it in the fire by
laying it across the flames; not in a lump. Burn each stripe thoroughly
before tearing off the next stripe to be burned. After all the stripes
have been burned, one at a time, then the blue and stars is ready to be
burned. BEFORE the blue and stars is spread across the fire, the blue
portion should be KISSED for respect by the person holding the blue
throughout the ceremony. The portion is then laid, as a whole piece and
not torn in any way, across the fire and all is quiet until the last
speck of blue turns to ash.
Sing - Star Spangled Banner; or other appropriate song.
End of the ceremony should be followed by a silent dismissal.
One ceremony snipped due to 300 line limit at listserver
BURIAL OF ASHES
If the flag to be burned is small or there is more than one flag to be
burned at a time, the flag may (but not necessarily advised unless due to
lack of time) be laid as a whole unit across the fire. This can be done
also if the first flag is torn and burned as describe above, and another
laid across the first one at a time. Nothing should ever be added to the
ceremonial fire after the Flag has been burned (out of respect).
The next morning the scouts that actually burned the flag and their leader
will gather the ashes to be buried. This could be included as the last step
in the ceremony if the wanted all of those in attendance to participate.
A hole is dug, the dirt placed carefully beside it and the ashes are placed
into the hole by handfuls. Fill the hole back up with dirt, a market can be
placed. At the beginning of the ceremony the speaker should say who the flag
grommets will be given to. They are a form of good luck and can be
carried or worn around the neck of the person who receives one. If the
ashes are entirely out, they can be carried to the burial site in a box,
if the ashes are still hot, a bucket could be used, then place by
shovels-full into the hole.
Speaking only for myself in the Scouting Spirit, Michael F. Bowman
DDC-Training, GW Dist. Nat Capital Area Council mfbowman@CAPACCESS.ORG
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City