Retiring “Old Glory” ...

Just days after 13 U.S. military service members lost their lives in Afghanistan, Waukon Boy Scout Troop 64 performed a flag retirement ceremony Sunday, August 29 with even greater meaning than originally planned for, properly disposing of 383 U.S. flags, 19 Iowa flags, five POW flags and two others while honoring all service members, past and present. Flags were properly folded, cut and presented for incineration one at a time in a detail-oriented ceremony that properly retires such flags after they have become worn, torn, faded or badly soiled, according to The United States Flag Code, Title 4, Section 8k. Scouts Pryson Rasmussen, Cayden Rasmussen, Philip Clocksin, Steve Russell, Will Sellers, Gabe Sellers and Drake Hankes each took part in the ceremony, photos of which surround this article.

When all flags are prepared, the Troop chooses one flag with which to perform a representative ceremony that honors all flags being retired. That ceremony involves cutting off each stripe while ceremonial words are spoken. The cut strips are then respectfully incinerated one at a time while the star section of the flag is left intact and incinerated last to represent the unity of the United States. The main American flag that was used in that opening ceremony had an anonymous note attached to it when it was donated for retirement that compelled the Troop to select that flag for the representative opening ceremony. The note read: “As you retire this flag, please honor Milbourn Johnson (Purple Heart Recipient), Orville Johnson, Levi Johnson and Harrison Johnson - Brothers who all served their country proudly and have now passed on.”

Ashes of all the retired flags are divided up and buried in secret, unmarked graves, the locations of which typically have some significance. For instance, sometimes a location under a live oak tree is selected because the mighty oak is seen to represent the strength of the United States. Other times there are more personal reasons that a grave location is selected.

Community members who have worn, faded, torn or old flags to be respectfully retired can place them in the metal flag drop boxes available at either the Waukon City Park entrance or at the Allamakee County Courthouse in Waukon. Boy Scout Troop 64 is under the direction of Scoutmaster Troy Lubahn and Assistant Scoutmaster Amy Russell. Troop parents as well as John Troendle, who is a retired Scoutmaster and Serviceman, assisted with equipment and logistics for the event. Submitted photos.