There were hundreds of them: U.S. flags battered by years of exposure to sun and pollution, a far cry from the vibrant red, white and blue of their “Old Glory” days.
Last week, the Vernon Chamber of Commerce hosted a ceremony to retire faded and torn flags they had collected from area businesses and the homes of individuals that were in danger of being discarded in trash bins, a disrespectful end to the best-known symbol of U.S. independence, the red, white and blue American flag.
Lea este artículo en Español: Boy Scouts de Vernon Retiran Banderas Estadounidenses
This Saturday, people all across the country will display the flag as part of their Fourth of July celebration. Many will have no clue that there’s an etiquette that goes with flying and caring for Old Glory and for disposing of the flag when it falls into disrepair.
Boy Scout Troop 419 led last Thursday’s flag ceremony at Vernon Fire Station 1. The troop is located in Vernon but none of its members actually live in the city. Some of the younger Cub Scouts attend Vernon Elementary; most live in the bordering cities of Cudahy, Maywood and Huntington Park. They meet at the Vernon Fire Station.
For 12-year old Boy Scout Andres Soto, expressing what he feels when he sees the U.S. flag does not come easy, he just knows he’s proud of the country he calls home and grateful to all the servicemen and women who fought, and are still fighting, to keep the country safe.
“A lot of people think ‘it’s just a flag,’ that could just be thrown away, but it should be respected,” Soto said. “We’ve had to do a lot to get our flag, it represents years of fighting and the laws and changes we have had from then to now,” the scout said.
According to the United States Flag Code, worn, torn and faded flags should not be flown but retired with dignity, preferably by burning. There are organizations across the country, such as The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Boy Scouts of America that understand how to properly retire a flag, and many chapters hold retirement ceremonies on Flag Day or military holidays.
Mary Fremd worked at Exide Technologies for 56 years before the plant’s closure in the spring. She returned to Vernon last week with several flags no longer in good condition. “Everyone will be waving their flags this week,” said Fremd, “it’s the perfect time to retire an old flag and make room for a new one.”
Fremd said she could not stand seeing “the flags in a ratty state.”
Boy Scout Connor Esquivel, 11, was charged with starting the fire where the remnants of red, white and blue would eventually go up in flames. He said the flag reminds him that America is a free country. “The flag flies over the best nation,” he said excitedly.
Flag retirement ceremonies are usually steeped in tradition and formality and Vernon’s ceremony was no exception. The flags were displayed to the audience of police, firefighters, city officials and others. The history behind the national symbol – the star spangled banner – was explained before the flags were cut into pieces and placed into the fiery pit.
Alex Duran has worked in Vernon for 25 years and says the flag’s symbolism holds special meaning for him: “I love the fact that white stands for purity, blue stands for valor and red stands for all the blood shed by those who have served their country,” Duran said. “I’m reminded how blessed I am.”
“When I see the flag I think of a Marine,” said Fremd, who volunteers at the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base.
Vernon Mayor W. Michael McCormick is the troop’s scoutmaster. He told EGP most people don’t realize there’s a proper way to dispose of a flag and recommended that residents contact their city, local boy scouts or veteran’s group when they have a flag that is no longer in good shape.
A ceremony like this is befitting of an industrial city like Vernon, said Marisa Olguin, president and CEO of the Vernon Chamber. “Many of the 30,000 businesses in Vernon fly the U.S. flag,” she esplained. “It shows our strong civic pride.”
For Vernon Firefighter Jason Rosa, a former Navy officer, it means so much more.
“When you think of what the flag symbolizes, all the people that have died for the flag, the least we can do is retire it with respect.”
The Vernon Chamber is selling new flags and proceeds will go towards the Vernon-area Boy Scout Troop 419. For information, call (323) 583-3313.