Flag retirement ceremony in Guernsey proceeded despite windy conditions

Guernsey held a short flag retirement ceremony June 14 at the VFW building despite the windy conditions. “We have hundreds of flags that should have been retired tonight. We are going to try to pick another date where we can retire the rest of these flags,” said Cain. Photo by Lydia Ellefsen

GUERNSEY – Guernsey held a short flag retirement ceremony June 14 at the VFW building despite the windy conditions.

VFW is Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the auxiliary includes the spouses, children or grandchildren of the veterans.

“To belong to the VFW, you had to have had your boots on ground overseas somewhere,” explained Cain.  

The flag retirement ceremony was almost canceled, due to the wind. However, when it became too late to cancel everything, it was decided that the two ceremonial flags would be retired: a full-sized American flag and a smaller flag that was flown at the cemetery.

“Normally this would go on all night,” said Pam Cain, the VFW auxiliary president. “The Guernsey Fire Department was kind enough to bring over their fire truck just so we could burn two flags tonight.”

When flags are no longer serviceable, they are retired.

“Any time a flag becomes torn, ripped, shredded on the ends, it’s time to retire it and get a new one,” explained Cain.  

The VFW’s main concern is the American flag and that they are respectfully retired. The ashes from the flag are usually buried. Last time, the ashes were buried at the cemetery. The main point is that the ashes must be respectfully placed somewhere; they cannot just be thrown out.

While the main focus is the retirement of American flags, state flags are also retired. The VFW collects flags for retirement all year that people can drop off at any time.

A brief movie about the history of the American flag preceded the flag retirement ceremony, and dinner followed the ceremony.

A full-sized American flag and a smaller flag flown at the cemetery that are part of the ceremony. Additionally, all the service flags are usually taken out to be present at the ceremony, but this time only the American flag was taken out for the Pledge of Allegiance.

The program usually involves Post members, such as the commander and junior and senior vice commanders. They could not attend, so other VFW members stood in. The ceremony ends with the placement of the flags in burn barrel and the playing of “Taps”.

“We’re really trying to make this a community event, not just a Post or an auxiliary event. We want the community to come and be involved,” said Cain.

This year, the Girl Scouts were also present and were part of the ceremony. One of the Girl Scouts participated in retiring the cemetery flag and the full-sized American flag. Cain also mentioned that they are looking at more ways to include the Girl Scouts in VFW activities and events.

“It’s important to keep these things in your community and do it as a community and not just as a Post member,” Cain said of the ceremony.  

“We’re about community. We’re not just about the veterans. We do a lot for our community, so it’s good that we can pull our community in for these kinds of events, and for a lot it’s a learning experience,” said Cain.