Scouts, Elks Retire Flags At Fort Ontario

OSWEGO – Most people believe the right way to retire an American Flag is to burn it – whole. However, that is not entirely correct.

The Elks’ annual flag program is intended to demonstrate proper disposal of unserviceable flags in a respectable manner.

On Saturday, historic Fort Ontario hosted several representatives of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Oswego Lodge #271 as well as a large contingent of Girl Scout troops 10566 and 10567. Nearly two dozen members of the public were also in attendance.

They conducted a U.S. flag retirement program inside the old fort.

Members of the public were invited to turn in their worn out flags for proper retirement.

Prior to the ceremony, the scouts explained the proper means of retiring a flag as well as many facts about the flag.

Exhalted Ruler Nelson Metz and other members of the Elks assisted the scouts in the flag retirement ceremony.

The Elks receive many worn flags throughout the year, Metz said. They are properly stored until the next retirement ceremony.

“You see a lot of flags flying downtown and elsewhere. Some aren’t in the best shape and we want to educate everyone about the proper use and care of flags and how to properly retire them,” Metz said, explaining the reason for the annual event.

The proper way to retire a flag is to cut it into four pieces.

Three sections of the stripes are cut apart. The field of white stars on the blue background is removed intact.

The stars represent the 50 states, the Union. Nothing should ever cut that apart.

And then, the four pieces are placed in the fire, one at a time. The stars are the last part to be retired.

“What you are burning now is just pieces, not a flag any more,” Metz pointed out.

They are burned until no remnant of the flag(s) remain.

After the fire dies out and the ashes cool, they are removed and buried.

The Elks donated a 10′ x 20′ American Flag to Fort Ontario.