The flag of the United States of America is an honored symbol of our nation's unity, it's hopes, it's achievements, it's glory and it's high resolve. When the flag is in such condition, through wear or damage, that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, it shall be destroyed in a dignified manner befitting such a symbol. The traditional way is to cut the flag into pieces and burn it in a modest but blazing fire. As we perform this respected duty, let us reflect on the design and meaning of our flag. The Blue field or union is the point of honor, the upper corner of the Flag's own right. The symbolism of the right hand goes far back in antiquity when it was the weapon hand. Raising the right arm free of any weapon meant peace. It became a salute, a way of giving praise and honor. The union is blue, representing the night sky with stars forming a new and glorious constellation. There is one star for each state in our union. It is said the point of honor of our flag was made from the blue clock belonging to a captain in the Continental Army.
The stripes are symbolic of beams of morning light, rays emanating from the sun. Thirteen red and white stripes, one for each of the original thirteen colonies. The stripes in our flag were inspired by the rattlesnake flag flown on the ships of the Continental Fleet and the striped banner of the Sons of Liberty. Though the pattern has changed, the bars of shining red and gleaming white have remained. The stripes are alternating, seven red and six white. The red standing for courage and the blood of those brave men and women who fought and died to establish and preserve our republic; the white representing the purity and high moral resolve on which our country was founded. The blue of a captain's cloak, the white of a soldier's shirt, the red from a flannel petticoat of a patriot's wife.. this was our flag. This is the flag that stands for honor -- your's and mine.
As the fire consumes the worn and tattered material in it's purifying flame, let us remember the words of George Washington when the Star-spangled Banner was first flown by the Continental Army: "We take the stars from heaven and the red from our mother country. We separate the red by white stripes, thus showing that we have separated from her, and the white stripes shall go down to posterity representing liberty." Thus the Stars and Stripes became what it is; born amid the strife of battle, it has become the standard around which a free people have fought to preserve the greatest nation in the world.
Flag Retiring Ceremony
- Display the old flag, give its history, if known. Also recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
- Respect paid to the old flag -- read aloud "I AM OLD GLORY"
|I Am Old Glory|
I am old glory; for more the 9 score years I have been the banner of hope and freedom for generation after generation of Americans. Born amid the first flames of America's fight for freedom, I am the symbol of a country that has grown from a little group of 13 colonies to a united nation of 50 sovereign states. Planted firmly on the high pinnacle of American Faith, my gently fluttering folds have proved an inspiration to untold millions. Men have followed me into battle with unwavering courage. They have looked upon me as a symbol of national unity. They have prayed that they and their fellow citizens might continue to enjoy the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, which have been granted to every American as the heritage of free men. So long as men love liberty more than life itself, so long as they treasure the priceless privileges bought with the blood of our forefathers; so long as the principles of truth, justice and charity for all remain deeply rooted in human hearts, I shall continue to be the enduring banner of the United States of America.
- Explain to the ensemble what will happen next, and a little about it: Taps will be hummed slowly while the flag is cut up; request ABSOLUTE SILENCE.
- Color Guard cuts the field of blue stars out of the flag, with solemnity and quiet. This field of flue is put onto the fire first. The stripes are laid into the fire when the stars are almost fully consumed.
- There is absolute silence until the entire flag is completely consumed by the flames.
- Then the color guard, with meaning, says, 'OUR FLAG REST IN PEACE."
- Group says together: Pledge of Allegiance.
- Group sings "America".
- End of the ceremony should be followed by a silent dismissal.
Color of the Flag
Remember as you look at your Flag, which is the symbol of our nation, that it is red because of human sacrifice. It is blue because of the true blue loyalty of its defenders. It is white to symbolize liberty -our land of the free. The stars are symbols of the united efforts and hope in the hearts of many people striving for a greater nobler America.
Holding the Flag Up
(Optional) At this point, each person in the audience or participating in the ceremony, may state what the Flag means to them.
(Optional) "Star-Spangled Banner", "America", or another appropriate song may be sung.
Procedure for Flag Burning
Have a pair of scissors on hand. Take the flag and unfold. Place stars (as audience sees it) in the upper left hand corner (one minute of silent meditation may be inserted if desired).
Ask for COMPLETE SILENCE. Either cut or tear the position of the blue containing the stars from the flag. Have one person hold the blue in their arms until the end of the ceremony because the blue and stars is the last part of the flag to be burned.
Now tear one stripe off at a time and burn it in the fire by laying it across the flames; not in a lump. Burn each stripe thoroughly before tearing or cutting off the next stripe to be burned.
After all the stripes have been burned, one at a time, then the blue and stars is ready to be burned. BEFORE the blue and stars is spread across the fire, the blue portion should be KISSED for respect by the person holding the blue throughout the ceremony. The portion is then laid, as a whole piece and not torn in any way, across the fire and all is quiet until the last speck of blue turns to ash.
If the flag to be burned is small or there is more than one flag to be burned at a time, the flag may (but not necessarily advised unless due to lack of time) be laid as a whole unit across the fire. This can be done also if the first flag is torn and burned as describe above, and another laid across the first one at a time.
Nothing should ever be added to the ceremonial fire after the Flag has been burned (out of respect).
The ashes should then be buried. This could be included as the last step in the ceremony if all of those in attendance want to participate. If the ashes are neatly out, they can be carried to the burial site in a box, if the ashes are still hot, a bucket could be used. A hole is dug, the dirt placed carefully beside it and the ashes are placed into the hole by handfuls (use a shovel if they are still hot). Fill the hole back up with dirt, a marker can be placed.
At the beginning of the ceremony the speaker should say who the flag grommets will be given to. They are a form of good luck and can be carried or worn around the neck of the person who receives one.
Alternate Flag Burning Ceremony
Lower the colors or unfold the flag.
Tear or cut off stripes one at a time, saying one statement with each stripe:
- Our flag has been used so much, that it is no longer a fitting emblem to display, so we are respectfully burning it.
- First Stripe: The 13 stripes stand for the original 13 colonies which are: Massachusetts, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and New Jersey.
- Second Stripe: The white stands for purity
- Third Stripe: The red stands for courage
- Fourth Stripe: "Give me liberty or give me death"
- Fifth Stripe: "One if by land, two if the sea"
- Sixth Stripe: We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.
- Seventh Stripe: We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal. They are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. Among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
- Eighth Stripe: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
- Ninth Stripe: Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or press.
- Tenth Stripe: "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth to this continent a new nation."
- Eleventh Stripe: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
- Twelfth Stripe: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."
- Thirteenth Stripe: "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Each state is being represented by a star on a field of blue, which signifies a new constellation being formed.
As we place it into the fire, let it burn brightly and remind us how truly our flag represents our country.
Will you please join us in saying the Pledge of Allegiance and sing The Star Spangled Banner and then Taps.