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Legacy Flag Retirement Program Started by Garret Paine of Alfred Station

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Paine standing with Alfred Station flag collection box

By Mary Gardner-Ruch

Seventeen-year-old, Garret Paine, of Alfred Station is down to the wire to complete his Eagle Scout project before his 18th birthday.  Garret came up with the idea of building flag collection boxes for American flags that are tattered, torn, or soiled so that they can be put to rest properly. In addition, he has asked for the person retiring the flag to share their story about where the flag came from, and what it meant to them.  

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I learned from Garret that there is a flag code that was established in 1923 when the National Flag Conference met in Washington.  Members said, “the flag represents a living country and the flag itself is considered a living thing”. 

Garret chose this project because there is no option for community members to retire their flags the way that they are supposed to. It is important to him that flags are retired properly.  The US flag code establishes advisory rules for the display and care of the National flag of the United States of America.  Flags are a symbol of enduring freedom so are returned in ceremony rather than being disposed of. Flag retirement is a solemn, dignified event.  

US flag code states, “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably burning.”  Garret, along with some of the other scouts, hand dug a burn pit for disposal of the flags.  It is behind the Alfred Station Fire Department. 

Generous donations were made to offer 30 replacement flags by The Hornell Elks Lodge 364, Hornell VFW #2250, Alfred-Almond Community Sports Association, and Southern Tier Concrete Products of Alfred Station.

The Scouts, led by Garret, built two boxes that will be placed in designated areas for worn-out flags to be placed. One will be at the Alfred Station Post Office and the other location is to be decided but will be in Almond.  Garret encouraged people to fold the flag in a triangle with the stars out and attach a note with the story of the flag. 

October 1st will be the first ceremonial burning and will take place at noon with refreshments served.  The proper way to fold a flag can be found at the following VA site:  https://www.va.gov/opa/publications/celebrate/flagfold.pdf.  

The ceremony will be an opportunity to hear the stories behind the flags and to continue to treat the emblem of our freedom with respect.

If you have a flag that you would like to retire, please consider taking part in this program.  Garret’s goal is for the program to continue after the first year as the boxes for gathering the flags are built and the fire pit is in place.  

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