Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Retiring the American flag

This past weekend, my children and I went on a Girl Scout Camping trip.  My son needed to attend as my husband was out of town.  One of the activities we perform was a ceremony to retire an American flag that the elementary school had given one of the girl scout leaders.  I have never seen this done  before and was curious about the process.  There are very specific rules to follow on how to destroy the American flag.  For this event we followed the scout ceremony which can be found here:

Following the guidelines
We veered slightly from the guidelines and cut every strip separately as we wanted each girl to have a piece of the flag to throw into the fire at the fire ceremony

Even tho the flag has been cut it is still treated respectfully    
The star panel is cut and left in a whole piece
During the fire ceremony each girl and leader read a part of the meaning of the flag
Adult Leader: The U.S. flag is more than just some brightly colored cloth... it is a symbol of our nation.

Scout #1: Seven red stripes and six white strips; together they represent the original 13 colonies that gained us liberty.

Scout #2: The red stripes remind us of the lifeblood of brave men and women who were ready to die for this, their country.

Scout #3: The white stripes remind us of purity and cleanliness of purpose, thought, word and deed.

Scout #4: The blue is for truth and justice, like the eternal blue of the star-filled heavens.

Scout #5: The stars represent the fifty sovereign states of our union.

Adult Leader: The U.S. flag should be treated with respect when it's flying, and it should be treated with respect when it's being retired.

Scout #6: The American Creed states, "it is my duty to my country to love it, to respect its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies."

Scout #7: Therefore, we retire flags with dignity and respect when they become worn, torn, faded, or badly soiled.

Adult Leader: This flag is ready to be retired. Its history is as follows:
First Raised (when): Alconbury Elementary school
At (location): Alconbury England
Memorable event or fact: Raised every day at 8:15 and lowered at 3:15

Scout #8: A flag ceases to be a flag when it is cut into pieces. We cut the flag into nineteen pieces: eigthtenn red and white striped banners and the blue star field. We leave the blue field intact because no one should ever let the union be broken.

Adult Leader: As the parts of the flag are placed in the fire remember... Old Flags never die, they just get fired up!

Every girl added a piece of flag to the fire.  The last piece thrown into the fire was the blue star field.
We had a moment of silence as a sign of respect to the flag.

 Two adult leader stayed with the fire while the girls moved away to another fire pit to get ready for smores.  After the fire went out the leaders gathered the ashes of the flag and buried them in a secret location at the campsite. 


  1. I was aware of how to care for our flag; but not how to retire it. Thanks you for this post; it was awesome learn about this. I am going to send the link to my children.
    I always love following your posts and thanks for comments on mine. I would love to meet you some day because I have learned so much from you.

    1. I hope can meet up one day. When we return to the states we will be traveling so you never know when I will be calling you:)

  2. This was so interesting and never knew how to retire a flag. My deceased grandfather knew everything about flag etiquette and I remember how he didn't like clothing and especially bathing suits to be decorated with red/white stripes and blue/white stars. I'm assuming my grandfather knew to burn a flag with respect, but I wonder if he ever went through a ceremony like this? Hmmmm?? Thanks for sharing Anna-Marie! Happy 4th of July!

    1. I found this very interesting, being near a military base I have learned all sorts of things that I never knew.

  3. I loved learning this. thank you for this post of respect to our flag. happy 4th!

  4. Very interesting! So few people know how to handle a flag properly. It drives me crazy when people fly flags all day and night and don't even realize they're supposed to take it in at night. They're trying to be patriotic, but are actually disrespecting the flag (yes, I learned way too much about handling the flag when my daughter's did Girl Scouts!). I hadn't realized that your kids did U.S. scouts!?!?! Why did they fly a U.S. flag at an ENglish school?

    1. The flag was flown over the US military school:) I have learned quite a bit of flag etiquette from Girl Scouts and Boy scouts over the past 3 years. I could probably teach a class on it now:)

    2. In the UK Girl scouts is called girl guides, we tried to get into a UK group but the waiting list was too long so I decided to sign up on the military base:) where I have been the assistant or leader of a troop ever since:)

  5. Amazing post. I had no idea . . .
    I always get teary when I look at the United States or Canadian flags. My family lives in both countries. They are MY countries. There's just something about seeing those flags flying between earth and sky that puts a lump in my throat. Thank you for sharing this beautiful, respectful ceremony!