Every time a patriotic holiday comes around, you will find yourself ready to show your pride and hang your US flag. But nothing lasts forever, and your flag can become tattered and worn over time. Although you have ordered a replacement, you may wonder what you should do with the old one. Read on to learn how to properly dispose of an American flag.
Why You Can’t Throw Your Old Flag Away
Although you may have considered throwing your old flag in the trash, you shouldn’t do it. The US Flag Code has established that the flag is representative of the country, and people should look upon it as a living being.
According to the code, flag owners must take their worn-out flags and discard them in a respectful way. Fortunately, you have many easy and convenient options.
Take It Somewhere for Disposal
One way to properly dispose of an American Flag is to take it to a place with a disposal box. You can find these at Veterans of Foreign Wars buildings or at government offices where you can drop your flag off easily.
Another option you have is to give it to the American Legion or the Boy and Girl Scouts. They will take the flag and hold ceremonies where they retire them. You will take comfort in knowing that you gave your flag to someone who will discard it in a dignified way.
How American Legion Members Dispose Flags
When American Legion members dispose of flags, they perform an elaborate ceremony where they burn the flag. Because the Legion conducts these procedures in a respectful and distinctive manner, it prevents the flag’s burning from being desecrated.
American Legion members will often perform these at night on June 14, which is Flag Day, the day that celebrates when the Continental Congress approved the United States national flag in 1777. Over the years, the flag added more stars as the country added more states.
Those involved in the ceremony will light a modestly sized fire and stand in rows across from each other. The Legion’s commander will examine the flags one last time to make sure that they have reached the end of their useful lives. After the commander has confirmed this, a chaplain will provide a prayer.
Those watching will salute as those performing the ceremony put the flags in kerosene. As the flags burn in the fire, a bugler will play “To the Colors,” adding to the flags’ respectful goodbye.
How To Safely Perform the Ceremony Yourself
If you want to perform a similar ceremony on your own, you can. However, you must remember to do it safely and follow the necessary procedures so that you provide the flag with proper reverence. Read below to find out how you can do that.
Check the Material of the Flag
Before you commit yourself to disposing of your flag by burning it, you must first determine what material it consists of. You don’t want to burn anything that will release any deadly fumes into the air and cause harm to yourself or your family.
In the case that it does consist of these materials, you should pursue a different option. Also, you should research your area’s fire codes and ordinances. That will ensure that you won’t break any laws while performing this ceremony.
Fold the Flag Appropriately
After confirming that the flag doesn’t contain anything toxic, you should start the process by ensuring you have properly folded the flag. Folding the flag shows your level of dedication and respect. Begin by having all corners of the flag fully extended. You should then take the striped portion of the flag’s lower half and fold it over the blue and striped half on the top.
Once you bring the top and bottom edges together, you must then begin a triangular fold on the right striped side. Take the folded side and bring it to meet the open edge. Continue the folding process in this fashion until you have completely folded the flag into a triangle. If you fold it properly, you can see only the blue background and the white stars outside.
Put the Flag Into the Fire
After you have built a fire that will be big enough to consume the flag, carefully place it in the flames. You should follow this up with a salute and the Pledge of Allegiance. You also have the option of taking a respectful moment of silence instead.
During the process, ensure that you keep the flag from touching the ground. Once the fire has completely turned the flag into ashes, you can bury the remains, and the ceremony will be complete.
Bury Your Flag
If you find that it’s unsafe to burn the flag or that you will be breaking the fire codes with the process, you still have the option of burying it. After you have folded it up, put your flag inside a respectable box and bury it. Then, you should pause for a moment of silence to show it the proper amount of reverence.
Recycle Your Flag
Another option you have for flags that are unsafe to burn is to take them in for recycling. There are flag manufacturers who will use your worn flag to create a new one. This will allow the flag’s material to enjoy a second life and flow in the wind on a flagpole once again.
You can also take your flag to the Stars for Our Troops program, which specializes in removing the stars from older flags. The program then takes the stars and sends them to veterans as a way of showing gratitude for their service in the military.
Now that you know how to properly dispose of your flag, you can do so respectfully. If you want to buy new American flags for sale made in the USA, contact Liberty Flagpoles today. Our nylon and polyester flags are brightly colored and come in multiple sizes, allowing you to display your pride properly.