Disposing of Old Glory
By By Janet Little Cooper
The national flag of the United States has many names. It is often called the Stars and Stripes, Old Glory and the Star-Spangled Banner. No matter the name used, the flags meaning will always stand for freedom.
More than 30 people gathered behind the VFW Thursday evening to pay tribute as more than 125 flags that have flown in recognition of that freedom were disposed of in a proper ceremony.
The VFW along with the American Legion Post 90 has been collecting United States flags that have grown old and tattered over the years for the flag burning.
"The Flag of the United States stands for everything we hold dear, our freedom, liberty and justice," VFW Commander Lee "Lavan" Martin said. "We cannot forget the men and women who have died for this flag and are dying for it. We still have troops in Iraq and we have to support them no matter if we agree or disagree with the war. It is so important to support them no matter what. We hold the flag sacred and do not want to see it desecrated in any way. It is so sacred in that if it touches the ground we dispose of it. Our flag deserves a proper disposal like we have gathered to do tonight."
Prior to burning the flags, the group sang "God Bless America" and veterans gave four toasts to the flag and a poem was read honoring the flag. ECHS senior Justin Gates as a final tribute to the worn flags played "Taps".
The ECHS JROTC and the Girl Scouts of Atmore assisted the veterans in the ceremony.
"Our Girl Scouts help the veterans place the flags out in the city for Memorial Day and this is their third year to participate in the disposal ceremony," Girl Scout mother Janet Womack said. "This is good for our girls. They learn how to present the flag, be in a color guard, how to perform a flag ceremony and the history and the meaning of the flag in Girl Scout camp, so this is really good for them to participate in."
This was the second event with the two veteran organizations that the Girl Scouts have participated in just recently.
"The girls are working toward achieving the United States Heritage Award," Girl Scout leader Suzanne Barnett said. "The award gives the girls recognition for learning about the heritage of the United States of America. Helping put the flags out for Memorial Day was the first step in the process of earning the award."
Completion of the Heritage award is intended to increase participants understanding of the United States and to foster a greater sense of patriotism through service in the local community.
"We are thankful to have the Girl Scouts and the ROTC come out and help us," Senior Vice Commander of the American Legion Post 90 Jim Forte said. "This flag stands for freedom and people need to realize that freedom is not free. A high price has to be paid."
Air Force veteran's Joe and Tammy Wright of Walnut Hill, Fla., no that all to well. The couple came to the ceremony to dispose of a special American flag.
"My dad, John Ekstrom is retired Navy and he is in Iraq working as a civilian," Tammy Wright said. "He has been there for three years now. He brought his old flag home with him from Iraq in April and asked me to take care of getting it disposed. It was just ironic how this happened. We have never been to a flag disposal ceremony. So when we found out about this we wanted to be a part of it. It was just such a great honor."