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elbanditoroso's avatar

Where can go to respectfully get rid of an American flag?

Asked by elbanditoroso (14756 points ) May 28th, 2013

I put my flag out yesterday for the holiday – probably for the last time. It’s fading (the red in particular) and it has been out and waving for so many years that the cloth is beginning to fray and tear on the far right side.

I have no problem getting a new one – but I want to respect the old one. I don’t want to dump it in the trash or anything like that.

Where does one go to respectfully get rid of a faded and torn American flag?

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29 Answers

dxs's avatar

You give it to an American organization that will burn it in a dignified manner. Such groups include: The American Legion, US Military, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Contact the Boy Scouts, VFW or American Legion. Or if you have a military post near you, call the public relations liason and ask them.

bkcunningham's avatar

(k) The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning. Source

flutherother's avatar

This is what the American Legion say…

Ceremony for the Disposal of Unserviceable Flags

The post assembles in meeting, out-of-doors, at night. Members are aligned in two parallel rows about 20 feet apart, facing each other. Officers are at their stations. A small fire is burning opposite the commander and beyond the rows of members.

Sergeant-at-Arms: “Comrade Commander, we wish to present a number of unserviceable Flags of our Country for inspection and disposal.”

Commander: “Comrade Sergeant-at-Arms, advance with your detail and present the Flags for disposal and inspection.”

(Sergeant-at-Arms calls his detail to attention. They form at the Post of the Sergeant-at-Arms, take the Flags which are to be inspected march abreast down center until opposite the Second Vice Commander, turn right and halt two paces in front of the Second Vice Commander. The Sergeant-at-Arms steps one pace forward and salutes.)

Sergeant-at-Arms: “Comrade Vice Commander, we present these unserviceable Flags for your inspection.”

Second Vice Commander: “Is the present condition of these Flags the result of their usual service as the Emblem of our Country?”

Sergeant-at-Arms: “These Flags have become faded and worn over the graves of our departed comrades and the soldier and sailor dead of all our nation’s wars.”

Second Vice Commander: “Present these Flags to the First Vice Commander for his inspection.” (The Sergeant-at-Arms salutes, about faces, commands the detail), “About Face,” (crosses behind the detail and takes his post at its left, commands) “Forward March.” (The detail marches to within two paces of the First Vice Commander, halts and proceeds as before.)

Sergeant-at-Arms: “Comrade Vice Commander, we present these Flags which have been inspected by the Second Vice Commander, for your further inspection.”

First Vice Commander: “Have any of these Flags served any other purpose?”

Sergeant-at-Arms: “Some of these Flags have been displayed in various public places.” First Vice Commander: “Present them to the Commander for final inspection and fitting disposal.”

(The Sergeant-at-Arms salutes, about faces, commands the detail), “About Face,” (crosses behind the detail and takes position on its left commands), “Forward March.” (The detail marches to center, turns left, halts within two paces of the Commander, Sergeant-at-Arms steps one pace forward and salutes.)

Sergeant-at-Arms: “Comrade Commander, we have the honor to present for final inspection and proper disposal these Flags of our Country.”

Commander: “Have these Flags been inspected by the First and Second Vice Commanders?”

Sergeant-at-Arms: “They have.”

Commander: “Comrade Second Vice Commander, what does your inspection show and what do you recommend?”

Second Vice Commander: “Comrade Commander, since these Flags have become unserviceable in a worthy cause, I recommend that they be honorably retired from further service.”

Commander: “Comrade First Vice Commander, what does your inspection show and what do you recommend?”

First Vice-Commander: “Comrade Commander, since these Flags have become faded and worn in a tribute of service and love, I also recommend that they be fittingly destroyed.”

Commander: “Comrades, we have presented here these Flags of our Country which have been inspected and condemned as unserviceable. They have reached their present state in a proper service of tribute, memory and love.

“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.

“Let these faded Flags of our Country be retired and destroyed with respectful and honorable rites and their places be taken by bright new Flags of the same size and kind, and let no grave of our soldier or sailor dead be unhonored and unmarked. Sergeant-at-Arms, assemble the Color Guard, escort the detail bearing the Flags and destroy these Flags by burning. The members shall stand at attention.”

(Color Guard forms. The detail about faces. Preceded by the Color Guard the detail marches down center to the fire. National Colors cross over and take position on the right of the fire, facing the Commander. Post Standard takes position on left of fire. The detail lines up behind the fire, which is burning low.)

Commander: “The Chaplain will offer prayer.”

Chaplain: “Almighty God, Captain of all hosts and Commander over all, bless and consecrate this present hour.

“We thank Thee for our Country and its Flag, and for the liberty for which it stands. “To clean and purging flame we commit these Flags, worn out in worthy service. As they yield their substance to the fire, may Thy Holy Light spread over us and bring to our hearts renewed devotion to God and Country. Amen.”

Commander: “Hand salute.”

(Color Guards present arms. Post Standard is dipped. All officers and members except those on the Flag detail salute. Members of the Flag detail dip the condemned Flags in kerosene and place them on a rack over the fire).

(Bugler sounds “To the Colors.”)

Commander: (at conclusion of “To the Colors”) “Two.”

(The Color Guard shall resume its station and detail is dismissed.)

(Color Guard advances down center and places Colors. Members of the detail resume their places among the members.)

_Whitetigress's avatar

eBay under Vintage.

laureth's avatar

One of our local ACE Hardware stores has a box for flag disposal; I guess they give them to the right people for the job. If you have an ACE nearby, you may want to check in there.

flip86's avatar

Why does it need to be disposed of in a dignified manner? Just toss it in the garbage and get a new one. Simple and no need for drama.

Adagio's avatar

Are most Americans into American flags in a big way? Seems so strange to me. What’s the problem with just tossing it out, why the rigmarole involved?

dxs's avatar

@flip86 @Adagio It’s a symbol of the United States of America, so it should be treated with respect.

_Whitetigress's avatar

@Adagio Probably unlike your country, we give a shit about what our flag stands for, and although we are thousands of subcultures apart and don’t agree on the same topics for instance, I’m from California, it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t fight to the death for someone in Virginia, Texas,Oklahoma, Florida etc, hence, the United States of America.

Adagio's avatar

@_Whitetigress While I feel very privileged to live in this beautiful country, New Zealand, I do not consider that the New Zealand flag stands for anything other than the country and its people (their achievements and/or failings), I would never consider disposing of a New Zealand flag in such a sacred way, I do not see the need.

Jeruba's avatar

I thought how to treat the flag was a matter of law. I thought dumping it in the garbage was illegal. Here’s the flag code of the U.S., as found on Wikipedia—not sure if it’s the same as @bkcunningham‘s info. because I can’t tell in her source whose rules those are.

I’ve always heard that old flags ought not to be displayed if they’re torn or faded and that the proper means of disposal is burning.

rooeytoo's avatar

Respect for the flag is inherent in most Americans and I think it is good. There is not the same feeling here in Australia. There are constantly fights going on regarding whether the current flag (version of union jack with southern cross on it) should be thrown out and the aboriginal flag used or a completely new one made up. Then some have the idea that only racists display the flag and they think the same of Americans who do. Not sure how they reached that conclusion. I have been to functions here where people do not stand up for the national anthem! It sounds like NZ is pretty much the same, it’s too bad.

But I digress, my dad carefully burned an old flag of ours and then disposed of the ashes in the country. We had a sort of ceremony of our own when he did it.

augustlan's avatar

I’m pretty sure you can burn it yourself, if you want to.

FWIW, I’ve never really understood our obsession with the flag, either. It’s a symbol, it’s not the thing itself.

flip86's avatar

@Jeruba It is not illegal to throw away an American flag. You realize how ridiculous that would be?

@dxs I’m an American and I love my country but when it comes to a piece of cloth I don’t get too worked up. Tossing out an old flag to get a new one isn’t disrespectful, it’s practical. Why is burning it any better?

bkcunningham's avatar

@Jeruba, my information’s source, US Code, is at the top of the linked information: 4 USC § 8 – Respect for flag.

bkcunningham's avatar

If you don’t understand showing respect when discarding a flag, you most likely don’t understand showing respect when the flag is raised and the National Anthem is played or when standing to face the flag when reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Most likely you don’t understand members of the US military giving a hand salute to the US flag. The flag is representative of this country and people who show respect for the flag are showing respect for this country and the freedoms, liberties and the opportunities this country, and all her imperfections, has given them.

rojo's avatar

@bkcunningham I would say you are probably correct and that ^^statement^^ probably fits me. I have never understood flag worship and I disagree completely with the belief that if you do not respect this inanimate object then you do not respect the country. What a pile of self-serving, sanctimonious, patriotic pap.

bkcunningham's avatar

It is a symbol. It is like a headstone on a grave. Or like a ring on a finger signifies marriage. But I understand your point to, @rojo. I think it is something that is taught. I grew up with a flag being flown in our front yard and my father, a WWII veteran, took great pride in teaching us what the flag signifies and to respect that.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Our family (with a lot of military) have always burned and buried the ashes for the American flag. It freaked me out the first time I saw it, I thought they were being disrespectful.

@bk I’m with ya sis!

dxs's avatar

@bkcunningham amen
^^To clarify, that amen was an amen to this response.

Jeruba's avatar

@flip86, and that’s not what I said, is it? There’s no need to be quite so condescending.

@bkcunningham, I saw the attribution, but I could think of several things USC might stand for. Since the source was a university website, it could have referred to another university. Thanks for the clarification.

rooeytoo's avatar

Amen to the amen above!

flip86's avatar

@Jeruba I’m not trying to be condescending, you clearly wrote that you think it is illegal to throw a flag in the garbage.

dxs's avatar

@flip86 I am not sure if it is against the Constitution, but it’s at least a de facto law. If you go around disrespecting the country’s flag, you’re probably going to be suspected of treason or a conspiracy or something.

rooeytoo's avatar

The world is so politically correct. We must respect religions that tell you that 72 virgins are waiting if you kill infidels. We respect those who want to abolish christmas trees in public places and the list goes on. But we feel the time honored tradition of respect for the flag of our country is somehow silly and passe???

flip86's avatar

@dxs My state has only one law regarding desecration of the flag and it involves using the flag to advertise.

Jeruba's avatar

Do you live in the U.S., @flip86? And does your state consider itself subject to federal law?

flip86's avatar

@Jeruba Yes, I live in the USA. Born and raised. However, there exists no federal law regarding flag desecration.

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