Understanding the importance of the Second Continental Congress’ adoption of the United States flag on June 14, 1777, U.S. presidents Woodrow Wilson and Harry S. Truman took action designating June 14 as Flag Day.
In a proclamation on May 30, 1916, Wilson officially established the anniversary date of June 14 as Flag Day, but it wasn’t until August 3, 1949, when Truman signed an Act of Congress that made the date a National Holiday.
Each year for the last four or five years, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) Chapter 1095 in Delaware has collected worn U.S. flags from the community and disposed of them according to the rules of U.S. flag etiquette.
During a presentation scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 15, at the Veterans Memorial Plaza located at 1121 S. Houk Road in Delaware, members of the local VVA chapter will dispose of worn American flags in a dignified manner by burning them.
“With most activities that we do that are patriotically-related, we try to educate the public,” said Harold Wolford, VVA Chapter 1095 president. “That’s why we have a couple of pamphlets of condensed information to give out on flag etiquette.”
Wolford said the presentation covers the U.S. Flag Code, which unifies the traditional ways of showing respect in displaying the flag.
“We’re going to have a flag pole demonstration to explain the real meaning and reason why the flag is folded in a triangle,” Wolford said. “It’s just a matter of convenience when it’s folded like that, and there is no significance to the triangle other than portability.”
Wolford added just as in the funeral of a fallen soldier, the flag receives a rifle volley of three shots then it’s properly and respectfully burned. He also mentioned that instead of disposing of a flag by burning it, it can also be shredded and buried.
Wolford said the flags collected by the VVA and disposed of come from the fire stations around Delaware County. He said that Delaware Fire Chief John Donahue will call to let him know he has another large collection of flags ready to be picked up.
“In the last two weeks I’ve picked up two huge boxes full of flags,” he said. “It usually takes two to three hours to burn all of them. That’s with three to four barrels burning constantly.”
Wolford said anyone in the community can drop a flag off at any of the fire stations in the county.
Not long ago, Wolford said, he pulled a few of the flags for a funeral home.
“What they do is when a veteran is cremated, they drape the body in the American flag,” he said. “We check that they are good flags and give a bunch of them to funeral homes for cremations.”
Wolford said it is a respectful way to dispose of the flag, and it shows respect to the veteran being cremated.
“Their ashes are now mixed with the American flag,” he said. “It’s total respect to the flag and the veteran.”
Wolford said that one year, someone entering the YMCA asked if the VVA was burning the flag in protest.
“We chose the Y as a public place. To educate the public, you have to be in the public. That’s why we chose where we did,” he said.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.