With care and reverence, members of American Legion Post 51 in Uniontown and area Scouts retired hundreds of American flags in a special ceremony.
A symbol of the nation, these flags –- now worn and faded, sometimes tattered -– had decorated local streets, hung at area homes and marked the graves of veterans. Legion members and Scouts honored these flags, which were collected by service organizations and the public from throughout the area, by disposing of them in a dignified manner.
“Respect for the flag is something deeply embedded in me and, I’m sure, every veteran,’’ said Rob Doria, of Upper Middletown, commander, who greeted participants along with Virginia Savage, of Hopwood, auxiliary president.
This was the fifth year the post hosted this ceremony, appropriately on Flag Day, inviting Fayette County Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to take part.
Participants gathered inside the post home for a program that included the posting of colors, Pledge of Allegiance, flag-folding, history, poems and remarks by officials along with a dinner before heading outside behind the post for the retirement ceremony in which unserviceable flags are burned.
Speakers included Doria, Savage, who is also assistant leader for Girl Scout Trooper 53214; Mark Steele, chaplain and historian; Blair Howarth, representing state Rep. Matthew Dowling, R-Uniontown; and Fayette County Commissioner Vincent Vicites.
“The flag represents everything America stands for,’’ said Vicites, who read the poem “I am the Flag’’ by Harold Schnauber, which named these ideals as “peace, honor, truth, justice and freedom.’’
In his benediction, Steele gave thanks for all men and women who have served and asked remembrance for prisoners of war and those missing in action.
Following a flag-folding ceremony, a color guard led a procession of Scouts, Legion members and the public outside while patriotic music played.
Information about the flag was broadcast over a speaker, including the meaning of the colors: blue stands for valor, white for purity and red for courage.
Then all present were asked to participate in the ceremony by placing flags into the fire, retiring them with dignity and respect. Many saluted the flags as they were burned.
“We’re very supportive of our troops, and we’re trying to learn more about the flag,’’ said Stefanie Coffman, of South Union Township, leader of Girl Scout Troop 53214 in Hopwood. “This is our first retirement ceremony. It’s very nice.’’
“We’ve done this for the past five years,’’ said Charles Popovich, of Masontown, Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 643. “It’s a great honor for them to invite us. We’re very proud to be here.’’