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East Union JROTC helps dispose of worn American flags
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Lancer Battalion executed a respectful and proud moment of retiring 130 flags on Tuesday, including this one that once flew over the U.S. Capitol building and the Manteca Senior Center. - photo by VINCE REMBULAT

Over the years, Vincent Ferdin has played “Taps” numerous times.

Although an easy tune, the East Union High senior was well aware Tuesday that the piece blaring from his trumpet brought special meaning to those at Prestige Senior Living at Manteca.

“I was honored and scared (to play “Taps”),” he said at the ceremonial disposal of the retired flags conducted by the Lancer Battalion.

This somber event was held in conjunction with the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

Since Flag Day in June, Linda Nickolisen, who is the executive director at Prestige, invited folks to bring in their worn, torn, faded or badly soiled flags to the senior care community in exchange for new ones. All told, 130 were involved in the swap.

Karl Knutsen, the longtime Junior Reserve Officers Training Corp. instructor at East Union, called the disposal of the retired flags a “respectful and proud moment” as done according to protocol. Each year, his Lancer Battalion conducts a similar-type event during the year-end changing-of-the-command ceremony.

“The flags are retired in a respectful way,” he said.

By that, Knutsen, using the same technique he learned years ago as a Boy Scout, separated the “Union” – or the stars from the U.S. flag – from Old Glory by cutting away with a pair scissors.

“It’s now two pieces (of material) and no longer a flag,” he said.

Each retired flag had a story behind it, according to Nickolisen.

“During the replacement, we asked people to give a history about their flags,” she said.

For example, the tattered and faded one used in the ceremony – included was incinerating the two pieces into the fiery caldron after the recital of words from the vigil coupled with the playing of “Taps” – once flew proudly over the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., and the Manteca Senior Center.

Nickolisen recalled another flag that once belonged to a family with a son deployed to Afghanistan.

“This flag had been flown at half staff (in front of the house). It finally went full when the son returned home,” she recalled.

Her father fought in World War II, bringing special meaning to the stars and stripes.

Nickolisen added that Prestige is home to number of veterans.

Plans are already in the works for another flag collection in 2013.