WARWICK – Flag Day offered a patriotic learning experience for about 100 people, including dozens of girl and boy scouts and their parents. Taking center stage during the ceremony on June 14 was the respectful retirement of old, faded and frayed U.S. flags, the symbol of American freedom.
Local military veterans from Nicholas P. Lesando, Jr., American Legion Post 214 in Warwick organized and hosted the 30-minute music-filled free event held at the American Legion Building, next to the entrance to Warwick’s Veterans Memorial Park.
“Other than military personnel, few in our community have seen a flag retirement ceremony,” said American Legion Post 214 Commander Stan Martin, who served as master of ceremonies. “This was a great opportunity for families, scouts and other townspeople to share a learning experience and honor Old Glory.”
In legion chaplain Jerry Schacher’s invocation he said, “We commit these flags, worn out in worthy service, to a clean and purging flame as they yield their substance to the fire.”
Brothers and World War II veterans Don and Warren McFarland recognized American prisoners of war and those missing with a POW/MIA Empty Chair Ceremony. The empty chair, displayed at all official American Legion meetings, is a physical symbol of the thousands of Americans still unaccounted for from all the wars and conflicts involving the United States of America.
Warwick Valley Rotarian Chris Olert recited the patriotic and emotional poem “The Voice of Our American Flag”
Commander Martin pointed out that the United States Code stipulates that, “When a U.S. flag is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, it should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”
Legion First Vice Commander Tom Brennan ceremoniously presented worn flags to former Legion commanders Walter Parkinson and Frank Gilner, who gently placed a dozen retired flags into a burning barrel, while the audience sang “God Bless America.”
An additional 2,000 flags will be honored and retired later this summer. “The larger burning requires more time, labor, safety requirements and involves considerably more smoke,” Martin said.
The Warwick Valley Rotary Club prepared and served refreshments on-site.