Flags honorably retired in fiery ritual

Photos by Daniel Vasta/The Herald
American Legion Riders Post 147 member Greg Smith of Holland retires a flag during the annual American flag disposal ceremony at the Dubois County 4-H Fairgrounds in Bretzville on Friday.

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

BRETZVILLE — On a cloudy Friday evening, close to 3,000 torn, tattered, worn and faded American flags were laid to rest.

Their lives ended honorably in a flag retirement ceremony, following a commemoration at the Dubois County 4-H Fairgrounds that included patriotic songs performed by the Habig Center’s Singing Seniors; a remembrance of prisoners of war and those missing in action; and a 21-gun salute.

During the fiery ritual, flags of all sizes were piled on an open flame for hours as volunteers disposed of them. The event marked the 10th iteration of the annual event.

Martin “Bud” Rasche, commander of the St. Anthony American Legion, explained that when a flag fades or rips, it’s time for it to be removed from its post and retired. When he’s driving around the area and notices flags past their prime, Rasche stops and tells their owners it’s time to take them down and give them a proper, dignified goodbye.

American Legion Rider Steve Bartels of St. Anthony, left, and American Legion Post 147 commander Pat Moriarty of Jasper place the first flag on the fire during the annual American flag disposal ceremony at the Dubois County 4-H Fairgrounds in Bretzville on Friday.

His message to them: If you’re patriotic enough to fly a flag, you need to do so respectfully.

“They are a symbol of our country and our freedom,” Rasche said.

One of the flags that was burned on Friday belonged to U.S. Army veteran Jerry Purviance. He was among the 60 or so people who attended or were part of the ceremony.

“The weather got the best of it” a few months ago, Purviance said of his old flag, and after seeing an ad in the newspaper, he knew he had to make sure its life ended honorably.

“We’ve got guys out there putting their life on the line every day to make sure the fighting is over there instead of over here,” he said when asked why it’s important to treat the American flag with respect. “That’s one of the big things, is they keep it away from the homeland.”

Rasche also spoke on other bits of flag etiquette. Those who fly the American flag at night should ensure it is illuminated by a light, he said, adding that the American flag should always fly higher than state flags and others that are raised nearby.

American Legion Post 493 service officer Steve Merkley of Maltersville, left, VFW Post 673 member Larry Goeppner of Jasper and VFW Post 11365 commander Eric Blessinger of St. Anthony retire flags during the annual American flag disposal ceremony at the Dubois County 4-H Fairgrounds in Bretzville on Friday.
A flag is retired during the annual American flag retirement ceremony at the Dubois County 4-H Fairgrounds in Bretzville on Friday.

 

 

 

American Legion Post 493 member Anthony Schroering of St. Anthony, left, teaches Alex Merkley, 8, and his brother Curtis Merkley, 11, both of Loogootee, how to play the bugle during the annual American flag disposal ceremony at the Dubois County 4-H Fairgrounds in Bretzville on Friday. 



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