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Wendy L. Berger Wood of the American Legion explains the history and practice of proper flag disposal.

COURTESY PHOTO - Legionnaires Jim Craig and Bob Dean assist Scouts in the proper disposal of a worn-out American flag in downtown Forest Grove on Saturday, Sept. 25.Flag advocacy is a major program of the American Legion, and one of the lesser tenets is Americanism.

Forest Grove American Legion Post 2 held their annual flag disposal ceremony from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 25 in the city parking lot across the street from the Forest Grove fire department. In doing so, the flag advocacy program was presented in conjunction with the Americanism tenet.

The ceremony was attended by both Legionnaires and scouts from Post 2-sponsored BSA Troop 2060 under the new leadership of Scoutmaster Lincoln Wright. Committee chairperson Doug Reynolds was present, as well as two scouts who came from Vernonia's Troop 960.

The American Legion's support for Boy Scouts of America began at the Legion's first national convention in 1919. Today, Legion posts sponsor more than 2,500 Scouting units across the country.

This is natural for Legionnaires, who bring their service-learned skills and experiences as veterans to help build character and positive traits in our country's youth.

While the ceremony is often held in conjunction with Flag Day in June, Forest Grove has typically held the burning in September — after the Scouts have returned to school and have once again begun their troop meetings, with the idea that they haven't filled their calendars with other Scouting activities.

Prior to the ceremony, the flags are ceremoniously laid out and draped over a table placed centrally to the burner. The Scouts then approach the table in pairs, and if the flag is too large for one Scout to handle safely when approaching the burner, they then each take one end of the flag to ensure there are no problems while depositing the flag into the flames. They then return to the table to obtain the next flag, and the cycle continues until all the flags are properly and reverently disposed of.

According to Adjutant Jim Craigg, the average flag count each year is just over 200. This year, 255 flags were slated for disposal.

After the ceremony commenced, several community members, having noticed the signs placed on the street, went home to find and bring their worn flags to the ceremony. One woman explained that she had held onto the flag she brought because "she was reluctant to dispose of it as it had belonged to her roommate," but she felt that this was a good and fitting time to do so.

With the flags brought to the ceremony after it had started, the total flag disposal count was 259.

The Ceremony for Disposal of Unserviceable Flags is outlined in Resolution No. 440, passed by the 19th National Convention of The American Legion in New York, Sept. 20-23, 1937. The resolution defined the ritual which was adopted for use by the American Legion and made the official ceremony for the destruction of unserviceable American flags. The ceremony has been an integral part of American Legion ritual since that date.

The purpose of the American Legion in adopting this ceremony was to encourage proper respect for the flag of the United States and to provide for disposal of unserviceable flags in a dignified manner. 

For those people who have worn flags to be disposed of, and would like to do so in a proper fashion, the American Legion is located at 2003 21st Ave. There is a slot at the door where they can be deposited at any time.

Wendy L. Berger Wood is commander of the American Legion Post 2 in Forest Grove.

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