After a brief prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance, the American Legion in New Providence ignited a pile of American flags in a traditional military ceremony meant to retire the old flags and commemorate the symbol that it represents.
The American Legion, one of the few agencies that can burn a flag, annually retires the flag in front of its headquarters as a sign of respect to the United States, the military and those who have made sacrifices for their country.
“The flag is a symbol of what we have done to maintain freedom in this county,” said Paul Dormont, the first vice commander of the post. “This flag has flown in front of this post for 365 days, through the rain and the elements, and we retire it today out of respect.”
As the column of black smoke rose into the clear night from the yellow flames below, the threads of more than 75 flags collected from throughout the town slowly disintegrated as the colors ran into a stack of burned fabric – the proper way to dispose of tattered flags.
In front of a crowd of 50 people, including a local Boy Scout troop who aided in the process, councilman Michael Gennaro took a moment to acknowledge the efforts of the military to fight for the rights of all Americans, and said the burning of the American flag was a ceremonial thank you to those who have protected this country.
“It’s the days like these that really remind us of the freedoms we have, and the sacrifices that people have made for us,” said Jeanne Lewinski, whose son was in the Boy Scout troop at the event.
“I want my son to see events like this for him to understand how fortunate he is, and how rich in culture the country is,” she said.
The flag, flown high above the Legion post, was taken off the pole by the Flag Retirement Detail, which went through a ceremonial folding, where each fold stood for a sector of the American society, including specific folds for the military, for family and for religion.
“The flag serves as a reminder for us, and on this Flag Day, we honor this country and the symbols it represents,” Dormont said.