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Demonstrating flag-retirement protocol
Members of the Boy Scouts Troop 425 cut the old, worn and tattered American flag into strips before it is thrown into the fire. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO/The Bulletin

When a flag of the United States is worn, torn, faded, or badly soiled, it needs to be replaced with a new one. When that happens, the old flag is “retired.”

Retiring a US flag is not a simple matter of throwing it in the trash can to be disposed, or by burning it in the fireplace. There is flag-retirement protocol that needs to be strictly followed. Members of Boy Scout Troop 425 led by Scoutmaster Chad Edwards, showed how that is done in a ceremony that has never been seen at any of the seven annual Memorial Day observances held at Manuel Valverde Park in Old Town Lathrop.

The flag-retirement presentation started with the Boy Scouts explaining the reasons behind the retiring of the symbol of the United States “with the utmost respect.”

“The traditional method of retirement is to incinerate the flag, but this does not mean that one should simply drop the entire flag – intact – into a fire. Today we are not burning a flag, we are retiring a symbol of America’s honor, courage, and strength,” explained one of the Scouts as the other members carefully cut up the worn and tattered flag with scissors in a methodical manner as specified in the protocol for flag retirement.

The strips were then, one by one, dropped into a container of burning wood. The ceremony ended until all the strips were reduced to ashes.

Edwards said they have done this flag-retirement presentation many times at various events, but Monday was the first time they did it as part of the Memorial Day observance. Troop members who took part in the ceremony were Robert Smith of Lathrop High, Braydon Rollins of St. Anthony of Padua School in Manteca, Nicholas Curtright of Weston Ranch High, Matteo Russo of Venture Academy, Sergio Zepeda of Lathrop High, Nicolas Merg of Lathrop High, Nikolas Brink of Joseph Widmer, Jr. Elementary in Lathrop, and Lennon Sanchez of Brock Elliott Elementary in Manteca.