By Chelsea Maguire |
SHREWSBURY – Since the nation’s earliest days, the red, white and blue banner of stars and stripes has endured as a visible symbol of the United States, its citizens and the fight for freedom.
But there comes a time when Old Glory shows signs of wear and tear and is no longer in a suitable condition to fly. According to Title 36, Section 176, Paragraph K, of The United States Code, that’s when the flag “should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”
Shrewsbury-based Boy Scout Troop 50 will provide that service to the community with a dignified public Flag Retirement Ceremony Oct. 11 at Gopher Field at Borough Hall.
Assistant Scoutmaster John E. Hogan will lead the ceremony, during which the scouts methodically take each flag apart with scissors, cutting stripe by stripe, because a flag ceases to be a flag when it is cut into pieces. While this is taking place, the boys take turns reading words that tell the story of the importance of each stripe in regard to the history of our founding fathers, the country and the people, from gaining our independence from Great Britain to putting a man on the moon.
Hogan describes the event as a very “somber and respectful event and a reminder of the importance of our citizenship and our community.”
Sometimes the worn, torn or stained banners Troop 50 receives have stories attached to them as well, such as where they were flown and for how long. The stories are incorporated into the ceremony.
Also participating in the Shrewsbury Scouting Program ceremony will be Cub Scout Pack 50, which includes boys ranging from first to fifth grades.
Being outside after dark, in a field near a roaring fire, is an exciting experience for the kids, said Hogan. They listen to the scoutmasters tell them about the symbolism of the flag, the importance of the ceremony and how they must be responsible for treating the flag with reverence.
The scoutmasters ask the boys to remember the people who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country in the name of freedom and liberty.
Since the tradition began, many of the same Scouts have returned for the solemn remembrance, reading from a script they have especially for this ceremony, singing the national anthem and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, acting respectfully as each flag surrenders to retirement.
A tradition such as this is not a simple flag burning, but in the words of Hogan “a funeral for an honored symbol of our nation which served its purpose.”
The flag retirement ceremony will take place 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11 on Gopher Field at Borough Hall. Community members who wish to retire a flag can place it in a collection box left by Troop 50 in the vestibule of Borough Hall.
This article was first published in the Sept. 20 – 26, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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