“After a flag has become tattered and torn, the accepted way for a flag to be retired is to be burned and then the ashes buried.”

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1770 in Willows hosted a flag retirement ceremony on Flag Day (June 14) at Willows Memorial Hall.

Dennis James, VFW Post 1770 commander, said through the ceremony, they’re showing respect for the flag. 

“The flag is very important to us and it’s not something we take lightly at all,” James said. “The program we do is very regiment and we’re very serious about it.”

Throughout the year, people can drop off their tattered and torn flags at Memorial Hall in a footlocker and every year, on June 13 (the day before Flag Day) the VFW works to fold all of the flags in a triangle formation in preparation for June 14’s ceremony. 

“We have the fire department … sheriff’s department and the highway patrol and we have our honored guest start with the first flags and we have them go through the ceremony and each flag is unfurled, unrolled out of the triangle formation,” James said. 

He said there are two cauldrons and each flag is displayed and dipped into the fire. They work as quickly as possible but if they get to a point where the cauldrons are burning down, they will take a break to break it all up a little and put new wood in. 

James said, since many of the flags are made of nylon, it takes a considerable amount of heat to burn them down. 

He said typically there are 100 or more flags – this year there were around 120. 

This year he said they began around 9 a.m. and were done by 11:30 a.m.

James said after all of the flags have been burned, they have to move the cauldrons and cool them.

He then takes them out to his farm and will dig a hole and put the ashes in the ground in an area by a tree. 

James said while some may think they’re just getting rid of a flag, it means a lot more than that to veterans.

“It’s the retirement of a flag,” he said. “It means so much more to us.”

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