Kingsland American Legion Post 437 Adjutant Mike Janto (left), Commander Mike Wheeler, and member Danny Brant visit the post’s flag retirement box at the Kingsland Branch Library, 125 W. Polk St., to pick up discarded flags. A second box is set up at Ace Hardware, 2607 RR 1431. The post holds almost-weekly ceremonies to properly retire the flags. Photo by Stennis Shotts
At 10 a.m. on Flag Day, June 14, American Legion Post 437 will respectfully retire worn U.S. flags on a fire pit behind the post at 138 Legion Loop in Kingsland. Folded in the shape of colonial hats, the flags will be placed with dignity into the fire, where the nylon versions burn so hot their white-blue flames quickly consume the tattered and faded colors on the standard bearers made of cotton and canvas.
“It’s not just a piece of cloth with red, white, and blue colors and stars on it,” Post Commander Mike Wheeler said. “It’s a symbol of what’s been done to have our freedoms.”
The ceremony begins with a veteran playing “Taps.” As the last flag is retired into the pit, everyone from the military salutes, while everyone else puts a hand over their hearts.
Flag Day is not the only day the Kingsland American Legion honorably retires the tattered flags of the Highland Lakes. Every Tuesday morning, Wheeler picks up flags left at two different post office-like boxes the legion placed in front of the Kingsland Branch Library and Ace Hardware. The store also has a cardboard box inside by the office where worn flags can be left for retirement.
“We pick up 15 to 25 flags every Tuesday,” Wheeler said. “We’ve seen some that look brand new, but most of them are worn and weathered pretty bad.”
The two colorful, metal boxes at the library and Ace Hardware were recently installed because of the number of flags being left inside the store at 2607 RR 1431 in Kingsland.
“It was packed full all the time,” Wheeler said of the cardboard box inside. “We decided we needed something that could hold more flags.”
President Woodrow Wilson established June 14 as Flag Day in 1916, 136 years after the Second Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution of 1777. The resolution approved a design for the new nation’s first flag. It determined that the flag would have 13 alternating red and white stripes and 13 stars on a blue field “representing a new constellation.”
“The flag is a symbol of honor for our country,” Wheeler said. “It’s what so many men and women have given their lives for — for America and our country and the flag.”
While the weekly flag retirement ceremonies are done with dignity and honor, they are usually held with little public participation. On Flag Day, however, Wheeler invites those who want to enjoy refreshments and take a moment to honor the country and the people who fought to keep it free.
The public is welcome to drop by just about any Tuesday year-round for similar ceremonies, sans refreshments, although they might have a pot of coffee brewing or bottled water available. At American Legion Post 437 in Kingsland, any day can be a flag day.