Honorably burning old American flags - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Honorably burning old American flags


The tradition of respectfully disposing of American flags by burning them is more than just ceremony. Veterans say anyone can do this at home, as long as it's done properly.

Flag Day marks the June 14, 1777 adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the United States' official banner.

A formal flag burning ceremony at Dubuque's Veterans Memorial Plaza seared into memory the solemn side of the ceremony.

In a more informal setting, though, the flame of patriotism still burned brightly. The Dubuque Marine Corps League gathered at Swiss Valley Park for their seventh year of honorably destroying old flags one by one.

"My guys feel that it's proper that each flag be disposed of on almost a personal basis," corps member Don Hildebrand said.

This year, members and their guests had quite a load.

"Somewhere in the neighborhood of 550, maybe 600 flags," Hildebrand said.

There were flags in all sizes, such as the large ones that fly outside of Perkins Restaurants, and all conditions.

"That's pretty bad shape," corps member Gerald "Shorty" Burger said, holding up a tattered, streamer-like flag. "It's seen better days."

Burger said the wind does a lot of damage to flags.

"They just put the flag up, and they think that's all they got to do to it, but they find out it's a little more than that. It's taking care of them after you get them up, too," he said.

"Don't let the flag hit the ground," Hildebrand said. "And if you want to dispose of it, it should be lit from the striped end, up, toward the blue field, and that is really the proper way. And then, as soon as you're done with it and as soon as it's burned out completely, bury the ashes."

He said it's about the flags and the fallen.

"It's an honor," Hildebrand said. "It's a way of honoring their memory and also the service of these flags."

There's a push from Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley that would require all US flags used by the Government to be made in the US. Currently, the Government is required to purchase flags made only of 50 percent American-made materials.

The All-American Flag Act, which Braley introduced this week in the Senate, would change that to 100 percent.

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