Ben Miyares and his Boy Scouts of America troop 605 packmates took on the responsibility of retiring Birchwood School of Hawken’s American flag.
He described the ceremonial process saying,
When a flag becomes worn and torn, ripped and ragged, it is disrespectful just to throw it away. A special ceremony is used to properly retire it. As a symbol of our nation, it is always to be treated with dignity and respect, even as you are burning it.
The ceremony is simple to conduct, yet hard to master. As we, Troop 605, were retiring Birchwood School of Hawken’s flag on our latest campout, it was hard to handle. As a larger flag, it took five scouts to handle, and still two more to retire. To begin the ceremony, the troop said a few words about the origin of the American Flag, as well as the place the Birchwood flag was displayed, and the year it was first hung up. After this, two scouts with scissors or a knife, cut the flag into stripes, and left the stars. The reason being that the stars represent the Union, and the Union should always go unbroken. Also, the stars will be burned last, as the last thing to fall. Now, with 13 colonies and 50 states, the scouts line up to take turns burning a stripe. The order must always remain the same: red, white, red, white. After all the stripes have been burned, there is a pause and then the Union is put on the flames.
The next day, after the fire has been reduced to ashes, the troop finds a place in the woods and buries the ashes. Until this has been done, no fire can be made in the firepit. A Flag Retirement Ceremony is a good way to honor a flag’s lifetime, the symbol of our country, and the times it has endured.
The Birchwood community is grateful to Ben and his pack for the care and respect they demonstrated, and for sharing the process and its meaning with us all.