The Columbus American Legion Hartman Post 84 is holding a flag retirement ceremony at 5 p.m. today that coincides with Flag Day.
A short, five-to seven-minute ceremony will be held in order to dispose of flags that are too damaged to be properly used. People are encouraged to drop off old and damaged flags at the Hartman Post for disposal during the gathering.
The process for properly retiring flags goes as such: The officers of the post, whether it is the Hartman Post or any other post throughout the country, inspect flags for damage or wear and tear. If the flag is too damaged or not usable in any way, it is placed in a trailer specifically designed to hold worn or damaged flags. Inside the trailer, the flags will be incinerated until they become ashes.
American Legion service officer Carroll Mohlman said that while fire is a key part of the process for retiring flags, he doesn’t want anyone to call the process “flag burning."
“I don’t want to hear that,” Mohlman said. “We’re fighting that yet today. We’re still trying to get that through Congress. They say it’s freedom of speech to burn a flag or step on a flag or do whatever they want with it. Freedom of speech is when you say something. If you’re going to burn it, that’s not saying anything, that’s just plain disrespect.”
The Legion uses flag retirement as a teaching tool for people to learn about proper flag etiquette. Officials invite local Boy and Girl Scout groups to the event in order to have them understand how to dispose of a flag early in life. At times, this hasn’t been realized. Mike Landkamer, a former post commander for Post 84, said that though Scouts have been invited in the past, they just weren’t able to make the event for one reason or another.
“It would be nice if some of the Boy and Girl Scouts would be there to see how it’s properly done,” Landkamer said. “That really doesn’t happen.”
Weather is an obvious concern in regard to having people attend the event. Mohlman said that when conditions are normal for this time of year, people will come by and see what’s going on. When the weather isn’t at its best, many people decide not to come. Still, he said he is hopeful that people will show up even if the weather is poor.
“People will see it and then they’ll just stop by to see what’s happening,” Mohlman said. “They may not even be from this town, but will stop in.”
Respect for the American flag is first and foremost among the lessons that the Legion wants people to get out of an event like this. Dave Oppliger, second vice commander for the Columbus American Legion, said that people should learn about the respectful, proper way to dispose of the proud symbol of our nation.
“People shouldn’t take it and throw it in their garbage,” Oppliger said. “They take it to the American Legion at our drop-off box and we’ll properly retire the unserviceable flag with respect to the flag. You don’t want to see it tattered (or) faded.”
Zach Roth is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org