Flag Day: Proper Flag Retirement

When it comes to the proper disposal of the American flag, the US Flag Code states only:

"The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning."

However, military organizations and groups like the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America have guidelines for flag retirement. (See the links to the right for samples.)

The Boy Scouts practice a simple ceremony:

"When the national flag is worn beyond repair, burn it thoroughly and completely on a modest, but blazing, fire.

This should be done in a simple manner with dignity and respect. Be sure the flag is reduced to ashes unrecognizable as a former flag."--scouting.org

For the American Legion, however, the ceremony is more involved, involving several officers of the post. For details, visit this page on legion.org.

Many local American Legion posts will retire your flag for you. You can drop off a tattered flag at:

The American Legion Post 135
1108 Bull St.
Savannah, GA 31401
Phone: 912.233.9277
American Legion Post 184
1 Legion Dr
Savannah, GA 31404
Phone: 912.354.5515

While they don't destroy flags immediately, they hold them for periodic ceremonies.

To find post locations near your ZIP code, visit the American Legion Post Locator.

In many cases, the retirement ceremonies involve folding the flag before burning. Traditional method according to USFlag.org (used with permission):

Step 1

To properly fold the Flag, begin by holding it waist-high with another person so that its surface is parallel to the ground.

Step 2

Fold the lower half of the stripe section lengthwise over the field of stars, holding the bottom and top edges securely.

Step 3

Fold the flag again lengthwise with the blue field on the outside.

Step 4

Make a triangular fold by bringing the striped corner of the folded edge to meet the open (top) edge of the flag.

Step 5

Turn the outer (end) point inward, parallel to the open edge, to form a second triangle.

Step 6

The triangular folding is continued until the entire length of the flag is folded in this manner.

Step 7

When the flag is completely folded, only a triangular blue field of stars should be visible.

Reported by: Charles Gray, cgray@wtoc.com