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Flag retirement ceremony at Gerber B.S.A. Camp

Last week I asked for readers to send photos from flag retirement ceremonies. Our friend Dave Jung sent these photos from B.S.A. Troop 331, in the Gerald R. Ford Council from Grand Rapids, Michigan. The photos were taken during their January “Polar Bear Campout” at Gerber BSA Camp.

Dave reported that as the heat rose from the flames, it had the unintended consequence of melting the snow caught in the tree branches around their fire. The falling clumps of snow added a bit of merriment to the otherwise solemn occasion.

I’m sure the memories of this flag-retirement ceremony will last these Scouts for a lifetime.

from the Polar Bear Campout

Older Scouts begin the ceremony by explaining why the flags are retired
from the Polar Bear Campout, #2

Scouts prepare an old flag to be placed upon the flames
from the Polar Bear Campout #3

A large flag is laid upon the fire
Polar Bear Campout #4

An old flag is consumed by the fire in a flag retirement ceremony conducted by B.S.A. Troop 331.

2 thoughts on “Flag retirement ceremony at Gerber B.S.A. Camp

  1. A question about flag burning as a form of protest came up on the forum I am a member of. Below is a selected exchange:

    [quote=SHUTUPANDTHINK;413983]I agree with you, it is a form of protest. Free people have the right to express themselves and their views without fear of reprisal by their government or their fellow citizens. Not to mention the proper way to dispose of a old flag is to burn it, so at one point all American flags are going to be burnt anyway.[/quote]

    Free Speech does NOT come without consequences. One can not yell “FIRE” in a movie theater for example, nor can one say something like “I hate Obama so much I’d like to kill him” without having the Secret Service knocking on your door.

    Further, if you burn my flag in my presence you will incur MY wrath – and I’ll gladly face the consequences of my actions before a jury of my peers.

    And yes, the proper way to dispose of a flag is by burning – BUT there is a respectful ceremony involved. The military has their own ceremony, but I have chosen to share a sample script of the retirement ceremony, as performed by the Boy Scouts of America. Boy Scouts are regularly called upon to retire flags that have flown over schools, fire departments, police stations, businesses and private homes – flags of ordinary citizens – whether or not they have served in the military. Here is the script:

    Scout Leader: When the United States flag (Old Glory) becomes worn, torn, faded or badly soiled, it is time to replace it with a new flag, and the old flag should be “retired” with all the dignity and respect befitting our nation’s flag. The traditional method of retirement is to incinerate the flag, but this does not mean that one should simply drop the entire flag (intact) into a fire.

    Though we disagree with burning a flag as a political statement and truly feel it is a dishonorable act, We also feel that freedom of speech must be protected. However, today we are not burning a flag – we are retiring a symbol of America’s honor, courage, and strength. Therefore we request that all remain silent during this ceremony.

    A flag ceases to be a flag when it is cut into pieces. In addition, it is easier to completely incinerate the flag, if it is cut into smaller pieces. A flag should never be torn up like an old bed sheet. It should be cut up with scissors or shears in a methodical manner. The corners of the flag should be stretched out over a table top and someone should cut the flag stripe by strip and then star by star. (Some troops burn each individual star, others burn the entire blue field at once, but in both cases reciting the states in order of admission to The Union.

    Scout 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 represent the original 13 colonies. The red stripes remind us of the lifeblood of brave men and women who have shed their blood for this land, where every man is free.”

    Scout #2: “The white stripes remind us of purity and cleanliness of purpose, thought, word and deed. The blue is for truth and justice, like the eternal blue of the star-filled heavens.”

    Scout #3: “The stars represent the fifty sovereign states of our union. 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, foreign and domestic.”

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

    Scout #4: “Therefore, we retire flags with dignity and respect when they become worn, torn, faded, or badly soiled. A flag ceases to be a flag when it is cut into pieces. We separate the 13 strips that represents the original 13 colonies, and the 50 stars to pay homage to the 50 states that together make up this great nation.

    • Flag to be retired is raised by the Scout Color Guard.
    • “To The Colors” is played as flag is raised.
    • National Anthem is sung.
    • Color Guard retires the colors.
    • Leader: “Please stand, and join me in retiring our nations flag.”
    • CFR: “Men and Women in Military and Boy Scouts will salute, while the rest of us will put our hands over our heart.”
    • CFR: “Post the colors”
    • Color guard raises the flag.
    • Bugler: Play ‘to the colors’ (on cue as flag is raised)
    • Everybody: Sing “Star Spangled Banner”
    • CFR: “Retire the colors”
    • Color guard: retire the colors, fold the flag.
    • Color Guard Captain: Bring the flag to CFR.
    • CG Captain: “Sir, We present this Flag that has proudly flown over our nation and it’s war dead. It is ready for retirement”
    • CFR: “Thank You. <>, do you have anything to say before this flag is retired?”
    • Scout Master: “Has this flag represented this nation with honor and pride, and become worn as the result of its usual service as the Emblem of our Country? ”
    • CG Captain: “Yes Sir. It has.”
    • CFR: “<>, do you have anything to say before this flag is retired?.”
    • Guest Speaker: “Has this flag, become unserviceable while flying over our country in times of peace and war, and as our nation’s men and women died in defending it’s honor.”
    • CG Captain: “Yes Sir. It has.”
    • CFR: “It has been concluded, that this flag has become unusable due to their proper service of tribute, memory, and love.”
    • CFR: “Captain, prepare the flag for retirement.”
    • CG Captain: “Yes Sir.”
    • Flag Retirement Group moves to burn position prepares the flag for retirement
    • Burn Crew prepares fire
    • Color Guard solemnly unfolds the flag and holds it over the container the flag is to be retired in.
    • CFR: “Join us in the singing of ‘God Bless America'”
    • Everybody: sing “God Bless America.”
    • Retire the flag.
    • The Senior Scout present recites the following:

    • First Stripe “The thirteen stripes stand for the thirteen original colonies which are: (List States in order of admission to The Union, along with the date of admission.)
    • Second Stripe “The white stands for purity”
    • Third Stripe “The red stands for courage”
    • Fourth Stripe “Give me liberty or give me death”
    • Fifth Stripe “One if by land, two if by sea”
    • Sixth Stripe “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of The United States of America.”
    • Seventh Stripe “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal. They are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. Among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
    • Eighth Stripe “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
    • Ninth Stripe “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or press.”
    • Tenth Stripe “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
    • Eleventh Stripe “One Nation under God.”
    • Twelfth Stripe “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
    • Thirteenth Stripe “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.


    • “Taps” is played as flag burns
    • After taps, wait for flag to burn. If not totally burned after some time, finish ceremony
    • CFR: “Please bow your heads as <> leads us in the benediction”
    • Benedictor: “Almighty God, Captain of all hosts and Commander over all, bless and consecrate this present hour. “We thank Thee for our Country and its Flag, and the liberty for which it stands. “To clean and purging flame we commit these Flags, worn-out in worthy service. As they yield their substance to the fire, may Thy Holy Light spread over us and bring to our hearts renewed devotion to God and Country. Amen.”

    • Scout Leader: “This concludes our US flag retirement ceremony. May we go home, and not forget the importance of our country’s most precious symbol, the US flag. Thank you for attending.”

    Note: If you have separated the 50 stars: Now have the Scouts, one-at-a-time, take a star and place it the on the fire. As the Scout places the star on the fire an Senior Scout reads each state in the order it entered the union. The Scout stands by the fire until the state is read. Then he returns to the end of the line. The next Scout does not enter the fire ring until the previous Scout leaves. Continue this for all 50 states. If you have left the star field intact place it on the flame, and then read the 50 states uninterrupted.


    Some flags, damaged in battle or otherwise rendered unserviceable – yet STILL bearing special significance – can be proudly displayed in various manners. 18 months ago, my Scout troop donated a US Flag to the USMC for use as a battle standard in Iraq. It should be returned to the troop any time, and it will be displayed in a place of honor in our meeting house.

  2. Thank you, Robert. This would be a beautiful flag-retirement ceremony.
    I’m glad you telephoned. Best Wishes, Deborah

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