Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 696 in Owensboro will host an unserviceable flags ceremony on Flag Day, Friday, June 14, at the Panther Creek Park south entrance.

At the ceremony, American flags that have become too worn for service will be honorably destroyed in a solemn and respectful salute to national unity and pride. As is common practice, VFW officers will inspect the colors and perch them on a raised line to avoid bringing them into contact with the ground. Then, in a funeral-style service, the flags will be ignited and burned completely before their ashes are buried.

"Every part of that flag has to be destroyed," said VFW Post Vice Commander Joey Benningfield. "You can’t have a single red strip showing."

It's a practice and tradition born out of the U.S. Flag Code, which states, in part: "The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem of display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning."

Essentially, Benningfield said, flags are regarded as symbols of American freedom, and, as such, they should be given the same respect as veterans and servicemen and women who defend it.

Flag Retirement is the proper, dignified way of destroying U.S. flags that are no longer fit to serve the nation.

"You give the flag respect," an emotional Benningfield said. "You respect it because there are men and women throughout our history who have shed their blood to defend it."

Any flag of any kind that has served to honor the country and its people should be retired at the end of its duty, according to the Flag Code, but care should be taken to repair and clean flags first in order to extend their lifespan. If it has been determined that a flag is no longer worthy for display, any American citizen is authorized to destroy it, but only if it is done in a dignified and solemn manner. It's not a requirement that the flags be burned. They can be cut into pieces, but only if the union blue is preserved (the blue portion with 50 white stars), because it signifies national unity. It's recommended that the union blue be cut out and then each stripe of red and white be separated, because only those individual components when stitched together form the American flag.

Using veterans service organizations like the VFW is among the best methods to ensure that a flag is destroyed properly and with respect. Benningfield said Friday's ceremony, which begins at 5 p.m., is open to the public, and anyone can bring flags they wish to be retired to the ceremony for disposal. The Cub Scouts, AMVETS and American Legion will also have representatives at Friday's ceremony.

Austin Ramsey, 270-691-7302, aramsey@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @austinrramsey

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