Are you flying the American flag as part of your Independence Day celebration? If you haven't checked your flag to make sure it's in good repair, now's the perfect time to take it out of storage and give it a good look. Flags that are damaged should be repaired under the United States Flag Code, a comprehensive piece of the full U.S. Code that describes proper interaction with this great symbol of our nation.

And if your flag cannot be repaired, or it is stained or damaged and you don't have the resources to get it fixed, you should never just throw the flag in the trash. There's a proper method for "retiring" the American flag. According to the U.S. Flag Code, it needs to be disposed of in a dignified way, "preferably by burning." That's right. . . burning.


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Retiring the U.S. Flag By Burning 

If you are retiring a flag by burning, the Flag Code doesn't give you many details on exactly how to do this. You'll have to turn to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), an organization that advocates for U.S. Veterans and issues that matter to veterans like proper treatment of the flag, for further instruction.

The VFW has a suggested procedure for retiring a U.S. flag:

  1. Fold the flag properly. There is a procedure for folding the flag into a triangle for storing it so that it will never touch the floor or ground. This should be done with two people to ensure the flag is not dropped or damaged.
  2. Place the flag on a dedicated fire. While technically, any fire can be used, there's something about using a campfire or fire for burning refuse that doesn't meet the requirements for respectful disposal.
  3. Everyone in attendance should salute or place their hands over their hearts and at least one person present should say the Pledge of Allegiance.
  4. Remain silent for a brief time while the flag is completely burned.
  5. Extinguish the fire carefully according to local fire codes.

If you aren't up for the task yourself, or you're not sure you can give the flag the required respect, the VFW as well as other veterans groups and the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts can also take flags for proper disposal in a retirement ceremony. 

Another reason to rely on the experts: Many of today's flags are made out of synthetic fibers that don't burn like cotton. It may be beneficial to let the experts burn your flag so you aren't exposed to any harmful fumes that may be let off while burning.


Other Methods of Retiring the U.S. Flag    

There are other ways to properly -- and respectfully -- retire a flag besides burning. The flag can be:

  • Buried. Use a respectful wooden box that tightly seals around the flag. Fold the flag properly and bury it underground. You may even decide to use a patriotic marker over the burial location.
  • Shredded. It may not sound as proper, but a flag can be respectfully shredded using sharp scissors. However, once you've shredded the flag, the pieces should be burned or buried.
  • Recycled. Specific organizations, like American Flag Recycling can take your nylon flag for proper disposal so that it doesn't release hazardous gases when it burns.

Of course, once you've properly and respectfully retired your American flag, you'll want to replace it with a new and intact symbol of our nation. We can help you find the best flag for your needs. And, we're there to help with any other types of custom, historical, national or state flags you may need.

. Give us a call to learn more about how we can help!

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