The retired and the rescued |

The retired and the rescued

Local veterans pay proper thanks to worn, torn and tattered American flags

Joshua Roberts

— Under other circumstances, an event organized to burn hundreds of American flags would be either cause for outrage, a happening born of protest, or both. Sunday morning’s gathering at the Moffat County Fairgrounds was neither.

Fifteen to 20 veterans – members of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and Sons of the American Legion organizations – spent Veterans Day conducting a short ceremony followed by the proper disposal of worn, torn and tattered American flags.

“I’m going to guess we retired 200, 250 flags today,” said Bill Harding, Moffat County Veterans Service Officer and a member of each participating organization.

The flags were properly folded before they were retired, Harding said. Ashes from the flags will be buried at the Moffat County Landfill.

“We gave them the honors they deserved,” he said. “And we rescued some, too.”

Throughout the year, area residents submit worn-out flags to various veterans groups, Harding said. A burn takes place when enough of them are gathered.

A small portion of the flags – about six to 12 of them – had their retirement delayed. Harding said those flags will be repaired and put back into service.

“They still have some life left,” he said.

The U.S. Flag Code, which formalizes the traditional ways respect is paid to the flag, states that “when a flag has served its useful purpose, it should be destroyed, preferably by burning.”

The code makes all the difference between burning the flag out of duty and burning it out of protest, said Bill Morgan, VFW senior vice commander.

“One’s done with respect, and the other is done with no respect,” said Morgan, who served in the U.S. Army and is a Vietnam veteran. “It’s the reason behind burning it” that makes a difference.

In honor of Veterans Day, the local veterans participated in a ceremony that included a 21-gun salute and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Morgan said the sacrifices of veterans past and present is never far from his mind.

“They always are,” he said. “I always think about them. It’s a part of me. It’s just a little more today because it’s Veterans Day.”

It’s a shame, Morgan said, that many people pay little or no attention to the holiday dedicated to those who served their country.

“People seem pretty blase about it,” he said. “To some, it’s just another day.”

• Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or

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