The American Flag, Symbol of Freedom

On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution to establish an official flag of the 13 United States.

The first American Flag would be thirteen stripes, alternating white and red, with thirteen white stars over a field of blue, to commemorate the 13 United States. Over the next couple of centuries, it would change only by the number of stars until it would become the 50-Star Spangled Banner we know and love today.

The flag has waved for the United States of America through good times and bad times. It has waved high and proud during times of celebration, such as Independence Day, and solemnly at half mast to pay respect during times of crisis.

Last week was Flag Day – a day set a side to retire our flag with honor and respect. For many people June 14, Flag Day was a day like any other, its importance and meaning being lost in the sands of time.

It has been said, “In honoring our flag, we honor the American men and women who have courageously fought and died years, patriots who set an ideal above any consideration of self. Our flag flies free today because of their sacrifice.”

Flag Day isn’t the only day when a flag can or should be retired. According to the United States Flag Code, “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem of display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

Many associate the idea of the flag burning as an act of desecration or disrespect. In the case of burning for retirement, this is more an act of respect, cremating the flag, as it were, and it is carried out in a ceremonious, reverent fashion.

If a flag is too tattered, dirty, or worn to save, it is time to retire it. The flag should be retired in a private, non-public location in a solemn, dignified ceremony. Local Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, Elks Lodges, or American Legion posts are often able to assist in the retirement process should help be required.

While this method is preferred by the United States Flag Code, modern flags do have the potential to release harmful chemicals as they burn. For those more environmentally conscious, donating the flag to be respectfully recycled is also an option. has further information on this option.

As President Teddy Roosevelt pointed out almost a hundred years ago, “We have but one flag, the American flag.” So, please, do not just toss out these beloved symbols of freedom. Bring you old flags to your local post, legion, or contact a recycling company, and let them retire the flag with the honor they deserve.

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