Flag Retirement Ceremony
Apple Valley, CA BSA Troop 157 has used this retirement ceremony successfully for various events.
It is best to plan the ceremony as a closing activity for the night.
Flags that are to be retired should be folded and placed in a box. As flags are removed they are to be escorted to the fire by two scouts. They will unfold the flag prior to placement on the fire.
Flags should be laid onto the center of the fire and the four corners folded back into the flames. A bit of nimbleness is required, some flags burn rapidly.
This is usually an evening event. Reading the script by firelight is not recommended. Have a flashlight on hand, as well as an extra copy of the script. Have a scout or Scouter nearby to hold the flashlight for the MC and/or the narrator. The flag(s) to be retired should be relatively close nearby. A fire (or fires) should be lighted and burning down to low flames. The fire itself should be no less than three feet diameter. Spectators should be grouped in a semicircle facing the fire and the MC. Scouts that are to retire the flags should be assembled near the box of flags.
When there is a large number of flags, it may be more practical to establish an assembly line of scouts with flags. Having a loop where a team of scouts is laying a flag on the fire as another unfolds. Additional fires may also be used.
Be sure to clear debris and impediments from around the fires. Have a clear walkway for the scouts to approach the fire and return safely. Have adequate room between the fire and the audience.
Upon completion, the fire is to be allowed to burn out. No cooking, marshmallows or other use is permitted. The audience is asked to disperse silently.
Participants in the ceremony should gather to the side just prior to the ceremony and determine the first, second, and third teams as appropriate. From the flags to be retired, find one that is in reasonably good condition. This will be the emblem used for the pledge of allegiance. As the leader begins to speak, have this flag unfolded and presented to the audience.
It is important for all speakers to speak LOUDLY. Sound does not carry well around a crackling fire. A public address system is recommended.
Campmaster: We will be closing our day with a flag retirement ceremony. At the conclusion of the ceremony we ask that you leave in silence. The fire will burn out and the ashes buried. There will be no marshmallows, weenie roast or other use of this fire tonight. Please welcome ________________ who will lead the ceremony.
“US Flag Code reads; "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."”
(First team unfolds flag and presents to the audience. The blue field in the upper left from the audience’s viewpoint.)
“BSA recommends: "When the national flag is worn beyond repair, burn it thoroughly and completely on a modest, but blazing fire. This should be done in a simple manner with dignity and respect. Be sure the flag is reduced to ashes unrecognizable as a former flag."”
“Tonight we will retire the American Flag in the tradition of Troop 157.”
“Please stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.”
(Leader faces flag presented by scouts.) “Those in uniform salute, all others place your hand across your heart. Ready…begin”
“I pledge allegiance…”
“Two. Please be seated.”
(Wait for audience to settle. Signal for quiet if necessary.)
“Tonight we have __________________ to read Troop 157’s version of “I am old glory.”
I am old glory;
(flag used for pledge of allegiance is placed on fire. Pause for flames to die down.)
For more than 11 score years I have been the banner of hope and freedom for generation after generation of Americans. Born amid the first flames of America's fight for freedom, I am the symbol of a country that has grown from a little group of 13 colonies to a united nation of 50 sovereign states.
Planted firmly on the high pinnacle of American Faith, my gently fluttering folds have proved an inspiration to untold millions. Men have followed me into battle with unwavering courage. They have looked upon me as a symbol of national unity.
Our flag has gone into every battle into which there have been United States citizens, from the American Revolution to the Civil War, to WW I, to WW II, to the Korean Conflict, Viet Nam, Desert Storm, Iraq and Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
(Second team begins to unfold flag)
It has flown over battles that were never declared: Pearl Harbor, Beirut, Oklahoma City, and most recently by the rescuers at the World Trade Center.
In all of these, we the American people have stayed true to the values that the Flag represents. We should always value the sacrifices that have been made for our flag and the country that it represents.
Those that died prayed that they and their fellow citizens might continue to enjoy the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, which have been granted to every American as the heritage of free men. So long as men love liberty more than life itself, so long as they treasure the priceless privileges bought with the blood of our forefathers; so long as the principles of truth, justice and charity for all remain deeply rooted in human hearts, I shall continue to be the enduring banner of the United States of America.
(Second flag placed on fire, retirements continue until all flags are consumed. As last flag is placed on fire, LEADER continues…)
“This concludes the flag retirement ceremony. This sacred flame will be allowed to burn out without disturbance. Please depart in silent tribute to those who have fallen.”
Equipment / Preparation
Old American Flags
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