Just a simple piece of colored cloth, sewn together in a red, white, and blue design. A piece of cloth that of itself does nothing more than hang or blow in the wind. But too many thousands of people though out our nations glorious history, it has stood tall, standing as a monument of Freedom, for all Americans. Men and woman have given their lives for it, fought for it, cried for it, and revered it as a symbol for the greatest country on earth. Books, songs, and poems have been written for it, and our National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner was inspired by it. Each day our children are encouraged to pledge their allegiance to it, and when ever it is raised or passes by, we all place our hands over our hearts or salute it. It stands for the freedom we all share and the pride and patriotism we feel for our country.
But when the flag has served its usefulness and no longer is suitable to represent our country, it must be retired and replaced. I believe that a task of this magnitude warrants a well thought out plan and a guide to properly dignify this event. The only "official" resource that I was able to find was in the United States Code that simply states:
"Soiled flags may be renovated by either washing or dry cleaning. Worn out flags should be destroyed in a dignified manner, preferably by burning."
The importance of this act, and the pride and emotions that it evokes make it a very powerful event that can serve as a reminder of our National Pride and help instill the values brought forth in developing good citizenship in our youth. With this in mind, the retirement of our nation’s flag then becomes a heavy responsibility that must be addressed with the proper respect and dignity it deserves
The flag retirement ceremony can be done in many settings, but is most effective in a small group setting. It should not be made a "grand event" or public display, rather a small, solemn occasion with a specific group or organization. A special ceremony or campfire would be appropriate. The actual ceremony should be an event by itself with no interruptions or "other business" during the ceremony. It may be a separate part of a larger program, but should have its own time from beginning to end.
Begin the ceremony by having the MC "silence" the audience and call for the colors:
MC: "Color Guard... presents Colors"
MC: "We are here today to honor the symbol of our country and retire a flag which has served its useful life as a symbol of freedom and our country. "
First Speaker: "I am your Flag. I was born on June 14, 1777. I am more than just a piece of cloth shaped into a colorful design; I am the silent sentinel of freedom for the greatest sovereign nation on earth. I am the inspiration for which America patriots gave their lives and fortunes; I am the emblem of America.
I have led your sons into battle from Valley Forge to Vietnam. I have been there though the Civil War, Two World wars, at Gettysburg, Flanders, Korea, the Gulf War, all of them. I was there with George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and I here with you now.
I have flown through Peace and War. Through strife and Prosperity, and amidst it all, I have always been respected. My red stripes symbolize the blood spilled in defense of this glorious nation. My white stripes, the burning tears shed by Americans who lost their sons in battle. My blue field represents God’s Heaven under which I fly, and my stars, clustered together, unify the fifty states as one for God and Country.
I am "Old Glory" and I proudly wave on high. Honor me, respect me, and defend me with your lives. Never let our enemies tear me down from my lofty position, lest I never return. Keep alight the fires of patriotism, strive earnestly for the spirit of democracy, and keep me always as a symbol of freedom, liberty, and peace in our country.
When it comes the time when I am old and faded, do not let me fly in disrepair, rather Retire me from my duties only to replace me with a new flag so that I may continue to symbolize our country. With this, renew your commitment to what I stand for and pledge your allegiance to me one final time:
MC: "Scout Salute! To the audience: Please join me in the Pledge of Allegiance:"
**"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic, for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and Justice for all."
Second Reader: As you can see, this banner of freedom before you is worn, tattered, and soiled from use and age. Her broad stripes are no longer a fiery red & pure white, but faded and worn out. The stars and blue background are no longer vivid reminders of our blue skies and great land, of the purity, vigilance, and justice she should represent. She has flown proudly over the years and has done her job well, but now she must be replaced with a new flag to properly represent this great Nation of ours.
Retiring the Colors: (Repeat as needed)
Third Reader: The flag of our Nation should always be a strong, vivid symbol of our land and fly brightly in our minds. Our flag is a symbol of our people, our freedom, and our strength. So it is now that I commit this flag, which no longer can fulfill these duties to the fire so that we may replace it with a new flag to properly symbolize our Nation. May the spirit of this flag be born again in the new flag we will now fly."
MC: "Scouts Salute"
At this time the Color Guard will turn the flag so it is parallel with the ground and gently drop it into the fire, folding the ends in toward the middle of the flame. The third Guard will use a long stick to then "stir the ashes" so that it will not be possible to recognize the ashes as a flag. They will then step back from the fire and stand at attention, and salute the flag.
MC: Color Guard... Prepare Colors"
At this time, the Color Guard will march over to where the "new" flag Bearer is. The New Flag Bearer will hand the new flag to the Color Guard Flag Bearer and step back. The Color Guard will then march back to where they were standing behind the flag stand and stand at attention:
Remember Me? Yeah, that’s right, red & white stripes, fifty stars on a blue field in the upper left corner, I am your Flag, but I’ve also been know by "Old Glory", the "Stars and Stripes", and the "Star Spangled Banner". Whatever you call me, I am the flag of the United States of America.
I remember years ago that people used to honor me, fly me with pride outside their homes and at work, and children in school would pledge their Allegiance to me every day. They would carry me in parades and people would watch and salute me with pride as I passed by, proudly waving in the wind.
When men and woman saw me coming, the men removed their hats and placed it over their hearts and the women placed their right hands over theirs. And their children were taught respect for the flag, and what to do as well. Now I’m lucky if they even recognize me, or even notice me at all. Now, the young boys and girls make fun of those who carry me, and call them names. They haven’t learned, or don’t remember about the thousands of men and women who gave up their lives for me. People who knew the meaning of Freedom, Liberty, Justice, and Peace.
Why has this happened? I'm still your American Flag. I haven’t really changed that much... just added a few stars over the years, been a whole lot ore places, and though it all, stood strong by you. Why don’t people respect me the same way they used to? A lot of blood has been shed since those parades of long ago. A lot more men and women have died defending me. When you honor me, you honor those men and women who gave up every-thing for your freedom. When I am flown, I see people not notice. When I am in a parade, I see people just stand there, with their hands in their pockets. I may get a small glance, but then you look away. Next time, please notice and respect me. Next time stand and be proud to be an American Citizen!
I see the young children of today running around and not being taught how to act when I'm around don’t the parents of today care? Don’t they know how to act? I saw one man start to take off his hat and looked around and saw no one else doing it, so just put it back on. I saw some kids calling the Boy Scouts who were carrying me names and making fun of them. I saw many just sit there as I passed by, talking with one another like I didn’t even exist. Is it now wrong to be patriotic? Have today’s Americans forgotten what I stand for and where I've been?
If you don’t care, who will? If you don’t teach our children what I stand for, and how to act around me, who will? If our children don’t learn how to respect our flag, what it means to defend our country, and how important Freedom, Liberty, and Patriotic Duty is, what future does our mighty country have? So, when you see me; stand straight, think about what I stand for; think about all of the Americans that have died for our country, and place your right-hand over your heart or salute to honor me. I'll be saluting you back by waving strong and proud in the wind. And I'll know that you remembered me.
Equipment / Preparation
Fire about 1' high
2-4 6' Poles
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