Boy Scouts hold flag retirement ceremony
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 12:52


Cub Scout Pack and Boy Scout Troop 304 held a flag retirement ceremony in Veterans Park on June 15. photo by Michael Rodman

Veterans Park event highlights proper disposal

by Nicole Rodman

With Flag Day just gone by and the Independence Day holiday ahead, many people across Dundalk and the nation will be proudly flying the American flag in the weeks to come.
    Most people know that the flag is to be accorded proper respect — brought in from the rain, lit with a spotlight at night, etc. — but what is the proper way to dispose of a flag that is no longer fit to display?
    Last Saturday, in celebration of Flag Day, Cub Scout Pack and Boy Scout Troop 304, sponsored by St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, demonstrated the proper way to retire a flag in a ceremony held at the veterans memorial in Veterans Park at the Dundalk Village Shopping Center.
    According to Troop 304 scoutmaster Richard Hartman, though it was the first time the troop has conducted a flag retirement ceremony in public, they have retired American flags before.
    “We usually do retirement of flags at campsites,” he explained.
    While the Scouts usually retire the flags in private ceremonies held during camping trips, it was assistant scoutmaster, Tim Fleischmann, who first floated the idea of holding a public ceremony.
    “We did one a couple of years ago with my old troop,” Fleischmann explained.
    According to Hartman and Fleischmann, the public ceremony provides an opportunity to educate not only their Scouts but also the general public about proper flag retirement etiquette.
    As Hartman explained, “People want to know what they can do with their flags.”
    The protocol for care, display and retirement of the American flag is laid out in the United States Flag Code.
    A set of advisory rules, the U.S. Flag Code is federal law, though there is no penalty for disobeying the code.
    As the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1989 and again in 1990, government laws prohibiting the desecration of a flag are unconstitutional, as they infringe on the First Amendment right to free speech.
    However, many states, including Maryland, have laws on the books prohibiting flag desecration if it is done in such a way as to incite a riot or disturb the peace.
    As laid out in Criminal Law Article, 10-703 of the Code of Public General Laws of Maryland, “a person may not intentionally mutilate, deface, destroy, burn, trample, or use a flag: (1) in a manner intended to incite or produce an imminent breach of the peace; and (2) under circumstances likely to incite or produce an imminent breach of the peace.”
    Maryland law, makes such desecration a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison, up to $1,000 in fines, or both.
    While Congress has attempted to pass a constitutional amendment banning flag desecration, the latest attempt at such an amendement failed in 2006.
    While the U.S. Flag Code may not be enforceable federal law, it remains a guide for those wishing to treat the American flag with care and reverence.
    Under the Flag Code, once a flag is no longer fit to display, the flag is to be cut into four sections, with care being taken to keep the blue field of stars intact.
    The pieces are then to be placed in a fire and burned ceremonially.
    Once the flag is completely consumed, the ashes are then to be buried.
    In their flag retirement ceremony last Saturday, the Scouts of St. Luke’s Lutheran said the Pledge of Allegiance, sang the National Anthem and briefly recounted the history and importance of the flag before ceremonially burning the retired flags.
    According to scoutmaster Hartman, the troop plans to make the public ceremony a yearly tradition.
    For people wishing to donate old flags for proper retirement, flags may be taken to Cub Scout Pack or Boy Scout Troop 304   at St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1803 Dundalk Ave.
    Likewise, flags to be retired may also be taken to any local Veterans of Foreign Wars or American Legion post for proper disposal.