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Legion Post 136 conducts flag ceremony

June 19, 2013
By CHUCK?BALLARO ( , Pine Island Eagle

The flags had served their purpose, flying in the wind and rain at residences and businesses until they were in tatters.

Now, it was time for them to be disposed of in a dignified manner, in a special ceremony at American Legion Post 136 in St. James City.

More than 100 people gathered to watch more than 2,000 American flags put to rest on Flag Day on Friday, the end of a year where the post has collected flags from people that were now torn and faded.

Article Photos

Worn out flags are properly disposed of during the Flag Day ceremony Friday at the Legion.

Chuck Ballaro

They weren't thrown in the trash or used to patch up old jeans. Rather, they were burned in a solemn ceremony in the parking lot that many took part in.

According to Post 136 Commander Frank Taugner, this is the only real way to dispose of tattered flags, and the post has been doing it for years.

"When a flag becomes unserviceable, you burn (dispose of) it. You don't throw it in the trash," Taugner said. "We've had people coming here for a year to drop off their flags, and this our busy season, when people are leaving."

At 7 p.m. sharp, people gathered outside for a brief service before the flags were given their proper farewells.

Legion officers conducted a ritual where the flags were inspected and deemed beyond serviceable use. The first flag was thrown onto the fire before witnesses to the event joined in and also threw flags onto the fire.

It wasn't long before they were all in flames, given their dignified end of service.

"The Legion has been the forbearer on flag-burning on the island for years and they do a nice job. It's respectful," said first commander Ann Crawford. "People bring flags all year long. We inspect the flags to make sure their disposable."

"We don't believe in burning them on the street like some countries do," Taugner said.

Obviously not at the American Legion, whose membership consists of veterans who served during wartime. For them, it is a symbol of those who died to allow it to fly in the first place.

Ann McDonald, an auxiliary member whose father served in the 82nd Airborne, threw a flag on the fire in memory of him.

"The flag means a lot for me. For our country right now, more so than ever before," McDonald said. "We have to grasp the values that were so important to the patriots who believed them way before us."

For Tom Lewis, a Legion member, the flag is sacred, so don't dare disrespect it.

"The only thing we're missing is a bunch of people who disrespect the flag ought to be in that fire," Lewis said. "Don't disrespect the flag, don't disrespect our country. The flag means freedom.

"Many have died defending it."



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