Old Glory gets proper send-off in American Legion ceremony
RIFLE It’s a symbol.An honored symbol that unites us all throughout the country and servicemen and servicewomen around the world. A symbol of courage and bravery that illustrates what this great country represents. It’s also a symbol of hope for others who dream of one day coming to this nation in search of the one thing that we all hold dear.Freedom.
On a quiet Sunday afternoon, at Veterans Memorial Park in Rifle, the American Legion Post 78 retired 237 flags that have seen their last breeze from atop the flagpole. Legion members unraveled the worn and tattered flags one by one and placed each into one of four barrels, where they were embraced by flames.Beginning the ceremony, five legion members held open an enormous flag in presentation as American Legion Post 78 Commander Jan Detweiler recited a passage from the legion’s manual of ceremonies.”It’s real value is beyond price,” she read. “For it is a precious symbol of all that we and our comrades have worked for and lived for and died for. A free nation of men and women true to the faith of the past, devoted to the ideas and practices of justice, freedom and democracy.”Worn and tattered flags are given this proper end by the legion because they know it’s the right thing to do.”This is to show respect for the country, as well as the flag,” said Ralph Koehler, an American Legion member in Rifle and a service veteran of the U.S. Army during peace time.
The flag’s meaning to Koehler is apparent.”We (the American Legion) want to show the proper respect for the flag, and we want to continue to give them a proper burning ceremony,” he said.Post 78 has done this ceremony in the past but didn’t have one last year, according to Koehler, because the traveling memorial of the Vietnam Wall came to Rifle during this time. But this year they wanted to continue with the ceremony.
“A lot of people will throw an old flag in the corner of the broom closet until something like this comes around, then they bring that old flag here,” said Sgt. John Pizzelli, a recruiting officer for the Colorado Army National Guard.But not all of the flags were destroyed on Sunday. Four American flags and two Colorado State flags were deemed to be serviceable by members of the American Legion and will be given to the Boy Scout Troop 223 of Rifle. The troop helped collect flags over the past year for the ceremony and will use the serviceable flags to hang in downtown Rifle on holidays like Veterans Day and Independence Day.Still, the amount of flags retired on Sunday was a surprise to Koehler.
“We’ve had a pretty good turnout,” he said.As the black smoke rose from the barrels, releasing from duty hundreds of flags which held numerous stories of sacrifice and glory within their stitches, it was powerful. Second only to the pride from the legion members that was as warming as the flames of the fire.Contact John Gardner: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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