After serving 38 years in the Army, nothing stirs emotions for Wetumpka’s Gardner Perdue more than disrespect for the American flag or those who desecrate it.
“I hate when people disrespect the flag,” Perdue said. “They may not be happy with everything that happens in the United States but it’s not as bad as what happens in other countries. If they question that, they should go visit those other countries.”
Perdue’s Boy Scout Troup 50 and VFW Post No. 4572 will hold their annual Flag Day ceremony at 5:30 p.m. June 14 at Gold Star Park in Wetumpka. There, tattered and faded flags will be properly disposed of.
“You can’t just throw it away,” Perdue said. “There are two ways to dispose of a flag — burying or burning. It’s like a funeral for the flag.”
Perdue said the prescribed ceremony involves a recitation of what the colors in the stars and stripes mean.
“The first flag, we tear it into red stripes, white stripes and the field of blue,” he said. “Then we read what each one means. Then all remaining flags are folded and disposed of properly.”
Each stripe stands for one of the original 13 colonies and each state is represented by a star on a field of blue. White signifies purity and innocence, red represents hardiness and valor, and blue stands for vigilance, perseverance and justice. The field of blue with white stars is burned last.
Ceremonies for disposing of unserviceable flags originated at the American Legion National Convention of 1937.
“When a flag has served its useful purpose, it should be destroyed, preferably by burning,” according to the U.S. Flag Code. “This solemn ceremony will be conducted with the utmost respect just as would be represented during a funeral.”
Perdue said before flags in his possession are disposed of, he cuts out the stars and gives them to veterans and supporters of the military — non-veterans also get a white card with their star and veterans get a red card.
“The red card says, ‘You are not forgotten. Welcome home,’” Perdue said. “We do that for Vietnam veterans who never received that.”
Perdue said Troop 50 lost a lot of flags in January’s tornado that destroyed the Scouts’ building.
“We accept flag donations all year long,” he said. “There have been years we disposed of as many as 300 flags.”
“Taps” is played at the conclusion of the ceremony and the following prayer is offered:
“Almighty God, Captain of all hosts and Guardian over all, bless and consecrate this present hour. We thank you for our country and its flag and for the liberty for which it stands. To a clean and purging flame we commit these flags, worn out in worthy service. As they yield their substance to the fire, may your Holy Light spread over us and bring our hearts renewed devotion to God and country. Amen.”
Schools, businesses or individuals who want to dispose of unserviceable flags are encouraged to attend the ceremony or bring them to the City of Wetumpka’s administrative building prior to the ceremony. For more information, call 334-567-5147.