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Students Participate in the VFW Dignified Disposal of UnserviceableFlags

Photo by Christy Porter -- VFW Post 6337 members prepare to burn a strip of a large American flag, with the help of fifth-graders from Licking Elementary

By Christy Porter
Managing Editor

The odor of smoke drifted onto Main Street the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 18. VFW Post 6337 members conducted the ceremony of the Dignified Disposal of Unserviceable Flags with the fifth-grade students of Licking Elementary, commencing at 10 a.m. in the VFW parking lot. The ceremony was led by long-time Post Commander Billie Krewson.
 Photo by Christy Porter -- Licking Elementary fifth-graders 
listen attentively as Billie Krewson, Post Commander,begins
 the Dignified Disposal of Unserviceable Flags Ceremony.

Students walked with teachers Michelle Meizler, Michelle Berry and Amanda Floyd to attend the event. After the students were seated, Krewson immediately took command as he initiated the ceremony with an introduction, a reading of the poem Heroes Die for Me by Jamie Burns, and the command, “Attention, Camp! Parade, rest!”

VFW members Ed Bennett, Aaron Hall and Virgil Zeller assisted Krewson as the flags were presented for inspection. Recommendation was made that they be honorably retired from further service, to which Krewson concurred, “Destroy these flags by burning.” A blessing was spoken. The retired flags were then fed into the fire with the respectful help of the attending fifth-graders.

The members and students began with one of the large 20-by-30-foot flag that flies near the intersection of Highways 63 and 32. This particular location flag is changed and serviced several times a year. As the flags are rotated out of service, usually at least one is disposed of during the annual flag disposal. This extra-large flag is spread without it touching the ground and cut into manageable strips, which had been done prior to the ceremony, and is then fed into the fire by participants. The students continued to present the smaller flags for disposal.

Photo by Christy Porter -- Students respectfully carry
smaller-sized flags for disposal by burning.

Over 100 flags were retired by burning this year. Krewson attributes the large response in part to the Flag Retirement box, which has been in place at City Hall and available to the public for approximately a year.

Bennett continued to man the burn barrel as the students had refreshments and a question-and-answer session in the VFW hall. Disposal of the flags continued long after the students had returned to school.

VFW auxiliary members Adonia Rask, Loretta Gann and Bobbie Gann had refreshments prepared for the students as they entered the VFW hall. Once the students were seated, they were introduced to the auxiliary members, who shared their personal ties to the military. The veterans were also introduced and participated in the question and answers.

During the Q & A session, Krewson explained why decommissioned flags were burnt.

“The flag is burnt only in a dignified and respectful ceremony and is burnt until not a single thread is left of the flag, thereby ensuring it will not fall into enemy hands. To burn the flag any other way is desecrating the flag and should not be done,” said Krewson. He also added, “The U.S. does not capture other countries’ flags.”

Fifth-grade teacher Berry said, “This is a great learning experience for the kids, teaching them the process and proper method of disposal. Initially, I think, the kids were a bit apprehensive, but they are showing interest as they participate.” Indeed, their questions verified a great interest.
Photo by Christy Porter -- Elementary students are fully engaged
in the question-and-answer session with military veterans
 at the VFW Post 6337 following the Flag Disposal Ceremony.

Students’ remarks included “Ratittitude,” “Awesome,” “Unique,” “Colorful.” The students showed military and patriotic pride as they shared. “Very special” was a comment from a military son. “My great-grandpa was a WWII veteran who fought in Germany.” “This makes my grandpa very happy.” “This is a blessing for veterans. My great-grandpa fought in WWII.” “My great-grandpa and my stepdad were both in the military.” A show of hands revealed that a majority of the students present had veterans in their families.

The teachers questioned as well, with Meizler asking, “Is there a specific day designated to burn our flags?” Krewson replied, “No, no specific day, but Licking and surrounding communities are fortunate in that VFW Post 6337 performs the Dignified Disposal of Unserviceable Flags, as not every VFW Post participates in this patriotic service. Flags from the very small to the extra large can be and should be disposed of by burning.”

When asked, Krewson also replied that they can and will burn military branch flags such as Air Force, Navy, Army, Marines and their Reserves, Coast Guard and Reserve, and Air and Army National Guard. POW flags can also be disposed of at the retirement ceremony.

The fifth-graders showed great interest in the military careers of the veterans present. Hall answered an inquiry by sharing that he had served in the Navy for 20 years. Zeller responded to another. “I was afraid, and if someone who’s been in combat says they were not, they’re lying.”

The veterans responded wholeheartedly to all questions. They encouraged the students. “Take pride in your country, dispose of United States flags with dignity and respect and be an example, a good example.”

The students took the opportunity to share with the veterans their ideas of defense in the future, to which Krewson replied, “We may be the protector of the world in the future. Take your responsibility seriously.”

“This is my first time for this ceremony. The whole process is informative and neat,” said Floyd, an attending teacher.

Krewson concluded the program by sharing the U.S. Navy Core Values.

“One, honor. Don’t lie, cheat or steal. Two, courage. Face your fears, stand. Three, commitment. Give 100 percent.”

“A huge thank you to everyone utilizing the Flag Disposal Box and ensuring the respectful disposal of our flag.”—VFW 6337 Commander Billie Krewson.


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