By Nancy Gould, Hunter Army Airfield Public AffairsMay 29, 2009
HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. - The sound of patriotic music flowed softly from Squires Parking lot as the afternoon sun went down on Hunter Army Airfield, May 15. Members of the Coastal Empire Boy Scout Council, Troop 691, were preparing for the Armed Forces flag retirement ceremony that would follow.
"You may get emotional," warns 13-year-old Bobby Jowers, a troop patrol leader who spoke before the ceremony began. "It's awesome to see those names flash up on the screen." Jowers points to a projector and screen positioned at the ceremony site displaying the names of local law enforcement officers, firefighters, 3rd Infantry Division Soldiers and other servicemembers who have died in the line of duty over the last several years.
"We are retiring an old flag that's done its duty," said Jonathan Collins, a 12-year-old assistant scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 691, whose members range in age from 10 to 18 years old. "When flags are dirty or torn, we retire them with dignity."
The ceremony opened with remarks by Norman Munthe, Boy Scout Troop 691 scoutmaster, whose solemn tone of respect quieted the group before the flag advanced forward. Four scouts held the tattered Colors by its corners, walking it from the lot's far corner to the ceremony campsite as "Amazing Grace" played.
Parents, firefighters, veterans and others scout members stood motionless around two fire-filled barrels before the scouts walked the Colors forward for retirement.
"The flag is a symbol for our country," Munthe explained. "The blue in our flag stands for the valor with which our ancestors fought and died. The white stands for the purity in all of our hearts. It represents the honor that each of us show in our everyday lives. The red stands for all of the men and women who died in the service of our country as members of the Armed Forces, police, firefighters and as everyday citizens.
As pieces of the large flag's white strips were cut up and handed out, Munthe continued, "The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified manner, preferably by burning."
The ceremony continued with scouts, veterans, fire fighters, police officers, and Service Members placing a white strip from the flag on a shovel, held by an Adventure Crew firefighter on site to support the event. The firefighter methodically placed each strip into the burning barrel.
The formal ceremony ended with Munthe calling the assembly to salute as portions of the flag's "blue field" were placed into the barrel; followed by a 21-gun salute and "Taps."
Several flags from Warrior's Walk were also retired by veterans and attendees following the formal ceremony.
Christine Collins, the mother of a Troop 691 Boy Scout and an assistant troop scout master, appreciates the bi-yearly ceremony that the troop holds. She said it teaches scouts to respect the flag and their country.
If you want to learn more about flag retirement, go to http://www.wikihow.com/Retire-a-U.S.-Flag
If you have a flag to retire, contact a Boy Scout troop in your local area for information about troops that participant in flag retirement ceremonies. To contact the Coastal Empire Boy Scout Council, call Munthe at 912-658-3658.