I joined the local Elks Club this spring and have really enjoyed the experience. Especially since the Lodge is right across the street from my apartment! But the Elks do good work. This particular Lodge has many charities and functions, but primarily concentrate on veteran’s assistance and placing new flags in schools.
They also have a Flag Retirement Ceremony once a year and I took some photos of the event, held yesterday (11/17/2012).
I learned a lot about the ceremony. There is no law for retiring a flag – but that it be done in a dignified manner. The ceremony conducted at the Elks was very nice.
There were dozens of individuals in attendance, mostly veterans. One flag was displayed as a symbolic flag for the ceremony, while other flags lay on a table in the back – cut into pieces (I’ll explain that below).
While an Honor Guard stood by the flag, a speaker led the crowd with the playing of patriotic songs and what the flag means.
Included was a great reading of the origin of Frances Scott Key’s inspiration of our National Anthem, where he was aboard a British ship in the harbor, trying to negotiate a prisoner exchange. He viewed the 25-hour bombardment of Fort McHenry where 1500-1800 cannon balls and bombs were lobbed at the Fort.
Next, the flag is removed from it’s mount and dissected – removing the blue and stars from the stripes. By doing this, you have two pieces of cloth to be burned, not a flag.
Next the the Blue and Stars, along with the Blue and Stars from the previously dissected flags are burned.
Next, each stripe is dissected separately, with each strip representing one of the original 13 colonies – in order of statehood.
After the flag is completely dissected and all stripes are incinerated, Taps is played and the ceremony is complete.