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Retiring Old Glory
Scouts burn 1,500 unserviceable flags

by CJ Carnacchio

August 22, 2012

It wasn’t easy being so close to this fire, but Eagle Scout Lewis Marshall (left) and Life Scout Justin Klaus didn’t let it stop them from properly retiring Old Glory. Photo by CJ Carnacchio.
Some hair got singed by the flames, a few eyes watered from the thick black smoke, and the smell of melting nylon and polyester was not at all pleasant.

But five members of Oxford Boy Scout Troop 108 didn't let any of these things stop them from retiring our nation's flag in the proper, respectful, and lawful manner.

On Sunday, these fine young men spent hours burning just over 1,500 flags in the parking lot of Oxford American Legion Post 108 on E. Drahner Rd.

The vast majority of them were American flags that had become worn, faded, torn, soiled, tattered or otherwise beyond repair and were therefore no longer fit to fly.

When an American flag reaches this unfortunate condition, which is called unserviceable, it cannot and should not be simply wadded up and tossed in a garbage can.

"The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning," according to the U.S. Flag Code.

The largest flag laid to rest by Troop 108 measured 14 feet by 20 feet. It had to be cut up with scissors in a particular manner, then burned piece by piece.

But it wasn't just Old Glory that was retired that day.

Other flags laid to rest upon the flames included the State of Michigan's flag, flags representing the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, Britain's Union Jack, the black-and-white POW/MIA flag and a flag representing a church.

They started burning all the flags a little before 2 p.m. and finished around 5:30 p.m.

The flags were collected over a two-year period as folks dropped them off at Post 108 for proper disposal.

Prior to receiving an additional 320 flags last week, the scouts spent about four hours neatly folding 1,187 flags in preparation for the burning ceremony.

Scouts participating in the burning ceremony included Life Scout Gregory Marshall, a freshman at Oxford High School; Life Scout Justin Klaus, a junior at Lake Orion High School; Eagle Scout Lewis Marshall, a junior at OHS; Life Scout Charley Devlin, a freshman at OHS; and Eagle Scout Brian Brougham, a junior at OHS.