Our American flag represents the 13 original colonies (stripes) and 50 states (stars). It represents independence, purity, innocence, hardiness, valor, vigilance, perseverance, and justice. It flies proudly above many homes and business around the country and across the world. However, not many people know when and how to properly retire, or dispose of, an American Flag (please note that the following disposal methods only apply to the Flag and are not required for flag-patterned items).
When your U.S. Flag becomes tattered, worn, torn, or faded, it is time to retire it. Here are 4 ways you can properly and respectfully retire your American Flag:
- Ceremonial Flag Burning. Build a fire and ensure that it reaches a strong and steady burn. Lower and fold your flag into the traditional triangle fold. Remember to treat the flag with respect. Do not place it on the ground or place anything on top of it. Carefully place (do not toss or throw) your folded flag on top of the fire in the center of the flames. While your flag is burning, take a moment to respect the flag and all that it stands for. You can also choose to say the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the national anthem. Once the flag is completely burned, be sure to safely extinguish the fire.
- Bury Your Flag. Although burning is the preferred method of flag disposal, respectful burial is also accepted. To bury your flag, find a box of good quality and construction. Fold the flag into the traditional triangle fold and place it into the box. Bury the flag in the ground. You may also choose to mark the burial location with a wooden stake or stone marker.
- Shred Your Flag. Although this may seem like a violent or disrespectful method, this is the recommended method if burning is not possible, or if your flag must be in smaller pieces to burn. Use sharp scissors to slowly separate the thirteen stripes, leaving the blue star-spangled section intact. Once the flag is cut into fourteen pieces, you can choose to either bury the pieces as listed above, or burn the pieces one by one, starting with the stripes and ending with the blue star-spangled section.
- Give Your Flag to a Qualified Organization. Certain organizations offer proper flag disposal services for no charge. Some of these organizations may include, but are not limited to:
- The American Legion,
- Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW),
- The Boy Scouts of America,
- The Girl Scouts of America, and
- The US Military.
Your local government may also provide flag disposal services. As we celebrate this July 4th, fly your flag and display your patriotism for this amazing country and your appreciation for the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for this country. We hope you have a safe and happy Independence Day!