Retiring of the flag
Photos by John Church Scouts line up to drop a flag into the fire.
Legion members salute as the first flag burns.
Scout Troop 912 of Vernon.
Logan Murphy of Hardyston, and Legion member John Kopcso of Franklin with the first flag to be burned.
Franklin Fire Department Assistant Chief Troy Kays takes a break from the heat.
Robert Caggiano plays "Call to the Colors."
FRANKLIN — The flags may have once covered the coffin of a deceased veteran, flown proudly in front of a public building or fluttered gently in front of a private home, but after becoming worn and torn they were retired in a solemn ceremony at the American Legion in Franklin, Saturday evening.
“We are properly disposing of American flags that are worn and tattered, are unserviceable, and cannot be hung anymore,” said American Legion Post 132 First Vice Commander Ray Caramanna.
Officers and members of the post conducted a brief ceremony before inviting the scouts to drop a flag into the fire.
“We try to get as many girl scouts, cub scouts and boy scouts here to try to instill into them the whole idea of Americanism and to teach them how to dispose of American flags,” said Caramanna. “We have been doing it for years and it has been very successful.”
As the scouts added flags to the fire the heat became a problem, especially to those tending the fire. The Franklin Fire Department was on routine standby and Assistant Chief Troy Kays donned his turnout coat and lent a hand.
“I just love being part of this tradition,” said Kays, a former Marine. “It is always a pleasure to come and do this with the boy scouts.”
As the scouts dropped more flags into the fire, the amount of heat being produced increased and Kays put on his fireproof hood.
As the fire died down the scouts and other guests enjoyed hot dogs and root beer on the Legion Hall porch.
Too much of a good thing
There has been a surge of patriotism since the 2001 9-11 attacks. The greater number of flags being flown has increased the number of worn and tattered flags, unsuitable for display.
Residents can drop their worn flags into the converted mailbox in front of the Franklin Legion hall or at the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority facility in Lafayette.
“For over 12 years the SCMUA has continued to provide this free service, which has resulted in an annual accumulation of approximately 350 pounds of flags to be properly retired, totaling over 4,200 pounds,” said SCMUA Recycling Coordinator & Safety Officer Reenee Casapulla in an e-mail.
The very success of collecting of unserviceable flags is becoming a problem. Open burning of polyester and synthetic flags generates health and environmental concerns.
“We will continue to make inquiries of state and federal agencies to explore viable options," said Casapulla, "and different strategies for the proper retirement of unserviceable American flags.”
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