President of the Virginia Society of the Children of the American Revolution Emily Elston, 16, of Woodbridge and her father Michael Elston, president of the Virginia Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, respectfully cut a well-worn American flag to retire it from use.
Photo by Fallon Forbush.
More than 100 United States flags were retired on Flag Day, Wednesday, June 14, at the Great Falls Freedom Memorial behind the Great Falls Library. The 14th annual flag retirement ceremony held in Great Falls was conducted by the Virginia Society of the Children of the American Revolution and the Fairfax Resolves Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.
Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the U.S. flag when the Flag Resolution of 1777 was passed on June 14 during the American Revolution by the Continental Congress. The holiday was first celebrated on June 14, 1877, during the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the American flag, according to the National Constitution Center.
At the time, the flag only had 13 stars to represent 13 states. More stars were added to the flag after the U.S. earned independence and new states entered the union, according to the National Constitution Center.
“I like to teach the kids how to properly dispose of the flag,” said Emily Elston, president of the Virginia Society of the Children of the American Revolution. “Respecting the American flags at their end creates more respect for them when they’re flying on the pole.”
The rules for handling and displaying the American flag are defined by a law known as the U.S. Flag Code, which is found in Title 4 Chapter 1 of the U.S. Code. The law states that when a flag is “in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display,” it should be “destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”
However, many of the flags could not be burnt during the ceremony.
This is because American flags were traditionally made out of natural materials like cotton and wool; however, synthetic materials like nylon and polyester are becoming more common. These release toxic chemicals when burnt.
Instead, participants respectfully cut the flag, removing the grommets first and cutting the star field off and cutting the stripes off before disposal.
“The flags represent all of the men and women who have served our country,” said Michael Elston, president of the Virginia Society of the Sons of the American Revolution and Emily’s father. “By respecting the flag, you respect their commitment and service as well. It’s no coincidence that we conduct the ceremony at this place where we honor men and women who have given their lives.”