New resting place available for flags that have served their time
EAST LIVERPOOL — Whether flown over the graves of veterans until faded, frayed from months of flapping outside halls of justice or worn from being trundled up and down the flagpole in a working family’s front yard each morning and night, American flags that have served their time can be disposed of with dignity, thanks to a local veterans’ group.
The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1064 of East Liverpool provides special flag boxes in several locations for those whose American flags need replaced, and one of those boxes has now been relocated for better access to the public.
According to members Ray Talbott and Bill Ash, the box which had sat in the entryway of the local Elks Lodge for some time was moved onto the sidewalk when the Elks enclosed the entry.
They became concerned the box would eventually be moved farther down the sidewalk where it would be overlooked or, worse, mistakenly used as a trash receptacle by passersby.
The chapter spoke with city officials, and it was agreed the box would be moved in front of City Hall, near the steps and the war memorial there.
This box was built in 2015 by the welding class at the Columbiana County Career Center in Lisbon, which paid for the materials, after which the Vietnam Veterans chapter paid for the colorful “wrap” that includes its logo and purpose.
Another box is located at the Tim Horton’s restaurant in Calcutta, and another in front of Hocking Hall (the former St. Aloysius School) on Fifth Street started out as a library book return bin that Talbott discovered and transformed.
The New Castle School of Trades students are in the process of building yet another flag box, with the school paying for those materials. It will be placed outside the St. Clair Township Police Department, and Talbott said he would eventually like to see a box located at the Walmart in Calcutta.
Ash and Talbott said the boxes fill up much quicker than one might think, with Ash saying it isn’t unusual to find two to three large trash bags full of flags in the boxes when they’re emptied.
They recommended flags be disposed of when they become even the least bit faded, worn or frayed, saying just flags and not the sticks that hold the smaller ones are to be placed in the boxes.
“When they get worn out, it’s time to replace them,” Talbott emphasized.
When the boxes are opened and the discarded flags collected, the chapter contacts veterans’ organizations such as the VFW or American Legion and sometimes Boy Scout troops to conduct official flag cremation ceremonies.
According to an internet search, rules of civilian flag courtesy known as the Flag Code were first formulated by the National Flag Conference in 1923, and the 77th Congress approved Public Law 829, officially sanctioning most of those provisions.
Then, in 1937 at the Convention of the American Legion in New York, a ceremony for disposal was adopted that, in part, the preferred day for flag cremation is June 14, Flag Day.
As part of the ceremony, the celebrant is encouraged to note, “A flag may be a flimsy bit of printed gauze or a beautiful banner of finest silk. Its intrinsic value may be trifling or great, but its real value is beyond price, for it is a precious symbol of all that we and our comrades have worked for and lived for and died for: A free nation of free men, true to the faith of the past, devoted to the ideals and practice of justice, freedom and democracy.”
It is recommended the flags be folded into the traditional triangle shape and placed on the ceremonial fire until burned to ashes, with the ashes then buried.
In at least one community, once the flags are reduced to ashes, the grommets left behind are cleaned then given to military personnel, police officers and firefighters to hang on their key rings as a thank you for their service.