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Scouts, vets demonstrate proper flag disposal

EAGLE POINT — An American flag will be burned here Saturday evening.

But this is no protest. It's a traditional flag retirement ceremony beginning at 6 p.m. at the Eagle Point National Cemetery to demonstrate the proper retirement of Old Glory.

Boy Scout Troop 7 of Medford is working with the Crater Lake Post 1833 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Jackson County Fire District No. 3 and local members of the American Legion on the ceremony, which is open to the public.

"We're hoping to make this an annual event," explained Tim Garr, a member of the VFW post and a Medford police officer who served in the Desert Storm and Desert Shield campaigns. "We've had a lot of old flags dropped off at the VFW box. And the Scouts have several boxes of old flags they've collected."

However, only one old flag will be burned during the ceremony, with the remainder given to the fire department for safe and respectful disposal, said troop Scoutmaster Tom Suttle of Medford.

"This teaches the Scouts how to properly retire a flag," Suttle said. "It will be a simple ceremony but we'd like to have the public come out. It will be very respectful."

The proper way to retire flags frayed or weathered by use is found in the U.S. Code in Title 4, Chapter 1 in Section 8 under "Respect for flag." The flag code was created in 1942 and amended in 1976.

"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," it reads.

The three organizations authorized to hold a flag-retirement ceremony are the Boy Scouts of America, the American Legion and the VFW.

The flag that will be retired Saturday once hung in the office of U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, Suttle said. It will be raised on the flagpole at the cemetery, then lowered before being properly folded and burned, he said.

The troop, with the assistance of members of Cub Scout Pack 41 from Griffin Creek in Medford, carefully folded all the old flags that have been collected in preparation for giving them to the Fire Department, he said.

"People drop off flags to us," said Suttle, who works for the city of Medford. "When the city flags get tattered, they are folded, put in a box and given to me."

The troop also conducts a single flag retirement several times a year at a church where they meet, he said, obtaining a permit and using a burn barrel in the parking lot.

"But we can't do that when we have this many flags," he said, noting most are made of nylon which burns readily. "Burning them all in a big bonfire is not respectful."

"We'd like to have the public come out for this ceremony," Garr added. "But they should arrive early because it will start right on time."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.