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Boy Scouts burn flags properly

June 15, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- To 12-year-old Garrett Sutton, the American flag is more than a few stars and stripes waving in the wind.

"It reminds me of our troops and I feel something special for the men and women who have died out there," he said. "It (the flag) deserves our respect."

Garrett and 25 members of Boy Scout troops 99 and 88 paid final respects to 400 U.S. flags on Monday by giving each a proper retirement and a final salute.

There is only one preferred way to retire a flag, and that is by flame, said Boy Scout Unit Commissioner Bill Yoder.

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Yoder said federal law suggests that a retired flag be saluted and burned.

When people hear that the scouts are burning flags, it raises some eyebrows, he said.

"People say, 'Are you kidding? You are not burning flags,'" he said. "However, when they learn about the ceremony they come to understand."

The ceremony is a part of a Scout's community service and pursuit of good citizenship, he said.

How respectful a scout is to a flag, whether raising, folding or retiring, shows the values to which a Boy Scout holds, said Don Aines, a representative of state Sen. Richard Alloway II, R-Franklin.

"The way you treat these symbols (of Democracy and liberty) says something about they way you hold to those values," he said.

Each Scout troop, American Legion post or VFW post that retires flags can create their own ceremony, he said.

Troop 99 has been retiring flags for seven years, and their ceremony included a mix of patriotic music, salutes and the replacing of 400 word flags with one crisp new one as well as the burning and burying of the ashen flags, Yoder said.

Twelve-year-old Daren Bowser said the ceremony gets more involved each year.

"This year we had way more flags," he said. "Last year we had, what, maybe 200."

Even though it took the Scouts many hours to turn the 400 worn flags into a pile of ashes, the Scouts stood vigil over the smolder ashes waiting until they were ready to be buried and saluted one last time.

The Scouts retire old flags each summer and will accept any old flag, Yoder said.

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