This year, as every other year on June 14, individuals, military organizations, communities, scout troops and civic organizations honored the ultimate symbol with freedom — the American Flag.
It was on June 14, 1777, when the Second Continental Congress adopted a flag for our nation.
Today, many communities set aside Flag Day for flag retirements. According to the U.S. Flag Code, "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 by burning."
"The American flag flies free to the wind — above residential porches, camp sites, small businesses, corporate offices, hospitals, schools, military and naval bases, government buildings and nonprofit organizations.
Because of the obvious preparations needed for this type of retirement, individuals usually turn to their local veterans’ organizations to properly retire their American flags.
In 2004, Marine veteran and acting Louisville Postmaster Richard Curtsinger contacted local AMVETS Post 61 and asked if they retired flags. "At the time I was the Okolona Post Office Manager," said Curtsinger. "I noticed our office flag was tattered and faded and it needed to be retired."
That was the beginning of an annual community event now attended by hundreds of residents who want to pay tribute to the flag and what it represents.
"These flags have inspired those who desired the taste of freedom and have represented hope to those oppressed by tyranny and terror. These flags have welcomed any and all in the name of liberty.
The first year, 250 flags were collected for retirement — this year, more than 3,400 flags were retired.
AMVETS’ members built a special retirement pit for the ceremony; a large concrete area with sand on top. When the flags are being prepared for retirement, they will never accidently touch the ground.
Highview Volunteer Firefighters start the fire and stay through the entire ceremony to ensure safety.
"These flags serve as constant reminders to all of us that we live in a country where our freedom has been deeply purchased by blood, sweat, tears and ultimate sacrifice. We must not forsake what those in the service to this flag, and their families, have forfeited.
Since Curtsinger’s days of serving at Okolona Post Office, Supervisor Julie Waters has taken over event coordination. "I think the increase in the number of flags being retired is because this has become a community event," she said. "And with the war going on, people are becoming more patriotic."
The significance of the ceremony wasn’t lost on participants, young or old. When asked by a local reporter what the flag meant to him, 8-year-old Boy Scout Joshua Lane said, "Freedom, bravery, loyalty and truth."
"Know ye that these flags have served well and honorably. Their stars and stripes have been loosed to the winds of freedom and have basked in the light of liberty." – Flag Keepers
If you have an American flag to be retired, you can send it to:
Okolona Post Office
P.O. Box 9888
Okolona, KY 40259-9998
Here is more information on proper flag retirement: