Cub Scouts learn how to retire the flag

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When an American flag becomes too faded and worn to be flown, it should be respectfully retired in one of two ways — it is either buried or burned.

Julia M. Dendinger-News-Bulletin photo: Cub Scout Pack 360 members Anthony Griego, left, and Micah Sparks, right, get some assistance from co-pack leader Lorenzo Delgado, center, during a flag retirement ceremony Tuesday evening. The two 9-year-olds were among the eight Cub Scouts who earned their citizenship belt loop.

Cub Scout Pack 360 learned Tuesday evening that burial isn’t always easy.

“How deep does the hole have to be to bury the flag?” asked pack leader Angela Sparks. As deep as the flag is tall was the answer.

“And how many of you brought a flag as tall as your dad?” she asked. A few hands shot up. “Can we dig a hole that deep in New Mexico without a backhoe?” A chorus of “no” and solemn head shaking was the response.

So it was decided that the 49 flags the pack had gathered from around Valencia County and Isleta would be burned.

Flag retirement ceremonies are typically held on June 14, Flag Day, but can be done at any time. The pack decided to hold its ceremony this week in honor of the upcoming Fourth of July holiday.

Sparks said they have been studying flag ceremonies and protocol for about four weeks.

Julius Perea, 7, who is a Tiger, said he learned that if the flag is flown at night, it has to have a light on it.

“Oh, and don’t let it go on the floor,” Perea said.

The pack also learned what the stripes stand for, said 9-year-old Anthony Griego, a Bear.

“We learned we should respect it because it’s our country’s flag,” Griego said.

By completing the flag retirement ceremony, the participants earned their citizenship belt loop.

According to the National Flag Day Foundation’s website, on June 14th, 1885, Bernard J. Cigrand, a 19-year-old teacher at Stony Hill School, placed a 10-inch, 38-star flag in a bottle on his desk, then assigned essays on the flag and its significance.

This observance commemorated Congress’s adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777. Then in 1949, President Truman signed an Act of Congress, designating the 14th day of June as National Flag Day.

A fire was set in a large, oval, galvanized tub and after a large tattered flag was displayed by the pack members, Sparks asked if the flag should be retired. The small group of parents, along with the Cub Scouts, answered in the affirmative.

Since there isn’t one standard ceremony for disposing of unserviceable flags, the pack decided to dismantle the flags, separating them into 13 groups of red stripes and white stripes and the blue field of stars.

Two at a time, the scouts carried the remains of the flags to the tub and dumped them into the fire.

As everyone stood silent, Sparks read quotes from famous Americans and spoke about what the colors of the flag represented — red for blood shed in the name of freedom, white to honor the protection of the innocent and a blue field of 50 stars that stands for 50 separate states united under one purpose.

After the fields were placed in the fire, one last pledge to the flags was recited, and the pack and guests quietly left the area.

“The fire belongs to the flag and the flags to the fire,” Sparks concluded.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.