Despite the blistering heat Saturday afternoon, members of the Overmountain Victory Trails Association, the Yadkin Valley Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR), and the Jonathan Hunt Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) came out to Chatham Park in Elkin for a flag retirement ceremony. Members came out dressed in Revolutionary War attire and gowns to celebrate the burning of the flags and the history of the nation.
Seventy-five flags were brought out to the park to be properly retired that day.
“When you have an American flag that gets tattered and the stripes ripped and everything, it’s no longer a symbol that has honor or dignity so you take them and you retire them, but you disassemble everything so it’s no longer in the form of a flag,” said Leanne Mitchell. “Then you burn it and that shows that you have retired it in an honorable way.”
The flags were cut with shears in a methodical manner. The flags were cut in half vertically while leaving the blue star field alone. Then the two halves are placed together and cut in half horizontally. The stripes are also cut into 13 individual strips and bundled up in the blue star field.
For many the flag retirement was an important reminder of the history of the U.S. and a way to support their ancestors who helped to build and defend the nation.
“It’s important to me because this is a way to honor our flag for a home,” said Mary Bohlen of the OVTA. “My ancestors fought for and defended this nation and that would be true for probably everybody here. To me, it’s similar to a burial. Respect and honor are what this flag stands for and represents. I think of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ written during the War of 1812. If you think about the words to it, the flag was still waving over the land of the free and the home of the brave during the bombardment of Fort McHenry, and I think about my father who was in World War II, my great-uncle in World War I, and my ancestors who were patriots during the American Revolution. It’s a show of respect and honor to our country and to the people who have served our country.”
The Yadkin Valley SAR Color Guard prepared a presentation of colors at the beginning of the ceremony. Following an invocation, the Pledge of Allegiance was spoke followed by the singing of the national anthem. Comments were then made by members of the SAR and DAR.
“Remember as you look at the flag, it is the symbol of our nation, it is red to symbolize human sacrifice, blue to symbolize the true loyalty of its defenders and white to symbolize our liberty — our land of the free. The stars are symbols of the united efforts and hopes in the hearts of the many people striving to keep America great,” said Danny G. Crouse of the SAR.
The ceremony also honored young Gabriel Mitchell, who won third place in the state poster competition. Gabriel received a check and a certificate for his hard work.
The flame was then prepared as SAR members came forward one at time to receive symbolic pieces of wood with the following spoken:
“Redwood: To remind us of the Red Blooded Americans who fought and died to build our nation under this flag.
“Oak: For the rugged strength that carried the flag across this nation and today reaches for the stars.
“Cedar: To protect us from pestilence and corruption and preserve our American way of life.
“Walnut: To remind us of the rich soil, the beautiful countryside and the fruitful brotherhood founded by our ancestors.”
Once the fire was prepared, everybody was asked to come forward and receive a flag to present to the burn marshal, Joe Hicks, who placed the flags in the flames. When all the flags were incinerated, a new flag was presented in the ceremony and welcomed with the Pledge of Allegiance.
“Today, no one really respects the flag the way they did in years gone by,” said Crouse. “Everything the SAR does is to bring stuff in remembrance so we do not forget what our ancestors have done. There’s a lot of rules that govern how to display a flag and how to dispose of a flag and really it’s not done properly enough.”
As the new flag was placed on the pole, many witnessed smoke drifting from the burn barrel over to the new flag.
“It was awesome. Here we are preparing the new flag and the old flags aimed their smoke right at the new flag,” said Teresa Howell with the OVTA. “It’s like the smoke was carrying the honor of the old flags to the new one. It gave me goosebumps.”
Troy Brooks may be reached at 336-258-4058.