At a flag retirement ceremony earlier this year, I saw what seemed to be several flags in very good condition that were being retired. It took several of these flags going into the flames before I realized what they were—veterans’ burial flags.
Traditionally, when a family is presented with the carefully folded veteran’s burial flag at the end of the funeral—it stays folded forever and may be tucked away or stored in a wooded case for display. But the years pass by, and sometimes the flag passes into the hands of someone who has no connection to the veteran or family.
The occasion comes up rather often: what to do with a veteran’s burial flag that no one wants? It is perfectly acceptable to retire these flags by the flame. However, there are American Legion posts, and VFWs across the country that will accept burial flags and fly them at their local cemeteries on special occasions, usually Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will also accept these burial flags, and fly them in National Cemeteries on patriotic holidays and special events.
There is nothing in the flag code that addresses this situation. It is a personal decision, but too often it becomes a public decision. As always, treating the flag with respect and honor is the first consideration.