The Ashland Fire Department used Veterans Day as an occasion to provide a fitting and proper end for some worn and faded symbols of America’s greatness.
The AFD had a flag retirement ceremony at Veterans Riverfront Park, at which a number of old, tattered flags that had been deposited in the collection boxes at the city’s three fire stations were incinerated, as dictated by flag etiquette.
“When the American flag, a symbol of our nation, is in such a condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, it should not simply be cast aside or discarded in any way that might be viewed as disrespectful, but should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning,” said AFD Capt. Carl Stambaugh, who organized the event and served as master of ceremonies.
“The banner of freedom before you is worn, tattered and soiled from use and age,” said Stambaugh, prior to him and Engineer Joel Charles placing the first flag in a 55-gallon barrel in which a fire had been built. “She has flown proudly over the years and has done her job well, but now she must be replaced with a new flag to proudly represent this great nation of ours.”
After gently placing the flag in the flames, Stambaugh and Charles both stood at attention and saluted.
In all, firefighters retired four 55-gallon plastic trash bags filled with flags. Stambaugh, a U.S. Navy veteran, said the banners had been deposited at the fire stations over a period of a couple of years.
“We were running out of room to store them,” said Fire Chief Scott Penick, also a veteran.
Penick said the fire department used to turn the flags over to the American Legion for disposal, but the organization was no longer able to do it.
“We did a lot of research on flag-retirement ceremonies and we realized we could do it ourselves,” added Stambaugh.
Penick said the department decided to have the ceremony on Veterans Day “because really, what better day is there?”
KENNETH HART can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2654.