KMC to celebrate Flag Day with flag retirement ceremony

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Amanda Dick
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
"I am more than just red, white and blue cloth shaped into a design. I am a silent sentinel of freedom. I am strong, and the people of America have made me strong."

The above excerpt from a Boy Scouts of America U.S. Flag Retirement Ceremony relays the spirit of the American flag, a flag which will be celebrated here June 14, also known as Flag Day.

It's a day to celebrate the heritage of the U.S. flag, but also a day to retire those flags that have had a long and fruitful life.

"It's one of those holidays that is not just another holiday," said Master Sgt. Mark DeCorte, 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron aeromedical evacuation technician and organizer of this year's U.S. Flag Retirement Ceremony. "The ceremony is done on Flag Day to help bring attention to the day and celebrate the American flag."

Though the American Legion is the official organization to perform a retirement ceremony, many other organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America, 4-H and Veterans of Foreign Wars also hold their own flag retirement ceremonies.

According to Resolution No. 440 passed by the 19th National Convention of the American Legion in New York in 1937, worn and unserviceable flags are to be properly retired through burning with respectful and honorable acts.

"To do anything honorable requires respect," Sergeant DeCorte said. "My son found a little bird on the porch, and he wanted to gather everyone in the backyard. And as silly as it sounded to us at first, it was important to him. When you gather around that small hole in the backyard and someone says nice words, it actually means something. You have that one moment out of your day to think about it."

"It's the same with a flag ceremony," he continued. "Those who have never participated in a flag retirement might see it as silly. But once you have, you understand it."

That's what makes all the difference between a flag burning or protest and a flag retirement ceremony, the master sergeant said ... "pausing, having a little bit of planning and having respect and honor."

Some organizations even go so far as to bury the flag's ashes during the ceremony.

"It gives it almost a life appearance, a life feel to it," he said. "If you look at the past, kings and queens would get the most ceremonial fires, and their ashes would go out to sea or something special like that. To me, bringing that over to our flag gives it a living, real feeling. It's not just an object. It lives, it breathes and it will live on."

At Ramstein, Sergeant DeCorte and a few volunteers will be retiring unserviceable flags on Flag Day at 4 p.m. in the southeast corner of the Commissary parking lot, across from Ramstein Elementary, Intermediate and Middle Schools. The event is open to anyone in the Kaiserslautern Military Community who wishes to pay respect to the flag.

KMC members wishing to retire any unserviceable flags they might have may bring the flags early, from 3 to 3:30 p.m., and will either be able to include the flags in the ceremony or right after.

"You're saying goodbye to the old flags and turning around just in time for base retreat for the flag that is still flying," the sergeant said.

While the ceremony is mostly to retire U.S. flags, it is also a way to teach others how to do just that. Even though the flags will be no more, what they represent will live on forever.

"Now, I am tired, and it's time for me to rest in the Sacred Flames. My colors are faded, and my cloth is tattered, but my spirit remains unbroken. I have had the great honor of being your flag of the United States of America and the Republic for which I stand, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."