It is common for Americans to fly the U.S. flag proudly both at their businesses and at their homes. At one point or another, however, these flags reach the end of their lives, becoming too ratty and old.
When it's time to get a new American flag, it's important to understand that you don't want to throw Old Glory in the trash as you might with another old, worn-out item. It is important to dispose of the flag in a dignified manner.
Much in the same way that there is an etiquette for how the American flag is flown and displayed, there is also an etiquette for how to retire an American flag.
Let's take a look at everything you need to know so you can choose how you will dispose of your old American flag with respect and honor.
Who Has the Authority to Retire an American Flag?
Anyone has the authority to retire the US flag. It is not written in the US Flag Code that only certain organizations or individuals are authorized to properly dispose of an old American flag.
It is important, however, that the American flag disposal ceremony is a dignified event and is done in a private or nonpublic location.
How to Retire an American Flag With Honor and Respect
The preferred way to retire an American flag as well as the most common way is to burn it. If a flag is torn, old, or worn-out, then burning the flag is likely your best option.
This might come as a surprise to you, as burning the American flag is often seen as a sign of rebellion and disrespect. However, cremating or burning has been long understood to be a dignified method for paying respect to the deceased or two objects that deserve veneration.
When you burn an American flag in the proper fashion, it is the perfect way to provide a final tribute to the object. In order to do so properly, you will need to fall the flag in the correct manner and laid on a bonfire. During the burning, you can recite the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the national anthem.
You can hold your burning ceremony on your own property when retiring your old personal flags.
If I Don't Feel Comfortable Retiring the Flag Myself, Are There People Who Will Do It For Me?
There are a number of patriotic organizations where you can take your old flags if it makes you feel uncomfortable to burn them yourself. These include the Boy Scouts of America, the Girl Scouts of the USA, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and American Legion. These organizations will be happy to give your old flag a proper and patriotic sendoff.
Organizations such as the old disposal ceremony throughout the year where the flags are usually burned. In general, it is common for the American Legion Post to have a ceremony each year on Flag Day in order to properly dispose of American flags.
United States Postal Service also holds flag disposal ceremonies on Flag Day. These ceremonies are commonly attended by veterans or residents of the town who are interested in paying tribute to these flags.
Is It Ok to Keep My Flags Rather Than Retiring Them?
You are always free to keep your flags is you want to. The best thing you can do is to trust your gut when it comes to when your flight has reached the end of its life. If a flag is irreparably tattered or otherwise too far gone to be repaired, then it is likely time to retire your flag.
If the methods listed above make you uncomfortable, you can also place your flag in a small box after folding it properly and bury it.
(Not sure how to fold the American flag? You can learn how here!)
In order to perform the ceremony properly, you will want to select a dignified wooden box in which to place the flag and say the Pledge of Allegiance while performing the ceremony. A good way to conceptualize a ceremony such as this is much like a small funeral for your American flag.
Another way that you can dispose of an old American flag properly is by separating each section. This means you will cut the 13 stripes off of the flag while leaving the blue star-spangled section whole. Once you have separated each of these pieces, you can put the pieces into a small, dignified box and bury it or you can burn each of the pieces one at a time.
American Flag Disposal: Doing It the Right Way Matters
There are a number of rules that dictate how to use, display, and dispose of an American flag. While the average patriotic American might be well-informed about the right ways to display a flag and what you should never do to a flag, they might not know how to retire an American flag.
Our flag is a symbol of the freedom and dignity of our nation that has been with us through thick and thin. When we choose to proudly display our American flags, it's also important to show the same respect when it comes time to dispose of an old American flag.
Is it time for you to replace your American flag? At Fortisvex, we have a wide selection of US Flags that are all 100% made in the USA.
Our American flags come in a number of different materials to suit the environment that you will be displaying the flag. Whether you plan on hanging it in a windy place, a wet place, or indoors, we have a flag that will work for you. You can check out our selection of American flags here!