Before Sunday, I had never attended a flag-retirement ceremony. I had looked at photographs, and viewed videos on-line, but those methods do not convey the sadness and joy evoked by witnessing the occasion in person.
The veterans from VFW Post #8573 had prepared a fire pit fueled with fine dry oak, a regional wood in ample supply. And by the time the first flag was placed over the coals, they were white-hot. The flag flamed and was gone in just a few moments. Some flags took a bit longer, and others were gone almost instantly. The men were diligent and their actions respectful, and that made all the difference. It made my heart sad at first, to see those flags flame up, one after another. But it’s a method of flag disposal mentioned in the flag code, and the only one I’ve ever known to be used.
Now the part that was joyous was seeing all those worn out flags, and understanding that the reason they were faded and tattered was because every last one of them had been flown to pieces. They were all shapes and sizes—mostly the Stars and Stripes, but a goodly number of the Lone Star too.
Oh, the Texas weather is hard on flags. If the sun doesn’t fry the fabric and fade the colors, the wind beats it to smithereens. People in Texas buy more U.S. flags than any other state in the Union, followed by California and New York. I don’t know what that means, if anything. But visitors to the state frequently comment on seeing so many flags flying.
It must have been a hard thing yesterday—for the vets to retire so many flags by the flame, but it needed doing. And that’s what our veterans have always done.