Members of Boy Scout Troop 20 of Orange Park, along with cadets from the Florida Youth Challenge Academy, conducted a flag raising and flag retirement ceremony on Nov. 7 in preparation for Veterans Day Nov. 11. As the old flag came down, a new one was erected. Ten cotton American flags donated by event sponsor Advanced Disposal were burned at the ceremony.
For Eagle Scout Matthew Bryan, 16, who manned the fire pit at the event, the flag is a symbol of both his parents’ service to America as both are U.S. military veterans.
“It’s not something that should be taken lightly,” Bryan said. “It’s a symbol of our country, our freedom and it should be treated like that, especially because there are men who died for that flag, to keep it up.”
Bryan’s mother served nine years in the U.S. Navy, while his father served 21 years. He said he first learned about how to respect and honor the flag from his dad.
“There are many rules about handling the flag, especially due to the fact that it is the symbol of our country. I know the military and retired veterans take it very seriously.”
Bryan said two former military honor guard members spent hours training the Scouts on how to properly fold the flag, as well as how to retire the flag.
“People take our flag for granted. I see it a lot. They don’t show reverence for what it actually means and having an event like this will give them a chance to see what our flag means to us, especially our retired military that are here on site today,” he said.
Fellow Troop 20 member Eric Delacruz, 17, who also volunteered to assist Bryan, accepted each of the 10 flags from Boy Scouts who took turns presented him the flags. Boy Scouts gently laid the properly folded flags onto a shovel Delacruz held. Delacruz would then gently move the flag onto the fire retiring each one in a somber show of respect.
“The flag is everything good that we stand for in this country,” Delacruz said. “It’s why I do Scouts, to give back, learn new skills, to help other people, things of that nature and the flag stands for that – freedom, defending others and so on.”
Delacruz said he hoped the Nov. 7 event would serve as an educational opportunity for the approximately 60 guests in attendance.
“I feel that a lot of American patriotism is lost on America, so I was glad to do these things to get people and to really let them know what it’s about – the honor, the good it does – so I’m glad to do these things,” Delacruz said.
Patricia McQuaig, president of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary, drove from Jacksonville to take part in the ceremony. She said education about how to properly handle the U.S. flag is part of the ongoing mission of her organization.
She said she is often seen passing out pamphlets about flag etiquette at elementary and middle schools where she does presentations about how to properly fold the flag.
“We really reach out to all of our youth groups, church groups, etc. and it is important that they understand what our flag means to our country and that they honor and respect it so that they too can pass it on,” McQuaig said.
The 10 flags that were retired at the ceremony were selected from a group of more than 2,500 donated flags that Advanced Disposal collected from among its 226 locations nationwide. Only cotton flags were used in the ceremony, while donated nylon flags will be recycled.
“The nylon flags are made of a material that do not allow them to be burned, and as advocates of the environment, Advanced Disposal wanted to ensure that they were recycled properly,” Mary O’Brien, chief marketing officer for the company.