Veterans call for respectful treatment and disposal of flags - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Veterans call for respectful treatment and disposal of flags

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Veterans say burning an American flag vertically, from the stripes up to the stars, is a respectful way of disposing of an old US flag. Veterans say burning an American flag vertically, from the stripes up to the stars, is a respectful way of disposing of an old US flag.

It was impossible to miss the large American flags, as veterans marched them down Main Street Monday afternoon in Dubuque's annual Memorial Day parade.

Many people who lined the parade route waived their own smaller, hand-held US flags in patriotic support.

Those smaller flags, however, can get lost in the celebration's aftermath. It's something Don Hildebrand knows all too well. He's Honor Guard commander with the Marine Corps League's Dubuque detachment 101.

"After parades and stuff, we've gone along the street, and you see them laying there in the gutter," Hildebrand said of small American flags. "Our guys or any of the other (veterans) organizations, too, will pick them up."

No matter the size, any American flag - whether old or just unwanted - should be disposed of properly, Hildebrand said. His Marine Corps League detachment does this through a respectful burning of the flag.

"Always make sure that you burn the flag from the bottom up," Hildebrand explained, holding a flaming American flag vertically, in a demonstration at his Dubuque home before the parade. "That flag should mean something to all Americans, not letting it touch the ground and things like that. It's respect for an article that depicts what America is about."

When a flag becomes tattered or faded and is no longer usable, Hildebrand said, people can respectfully burn it themselves. Any ashes - including grommets that may have been attached to the flag - should be buried, he added.

Anybody uncomfortable with properly burning an American flag can bring it to a US veterans organization, such as an American Legion post or AMVETS, and veterans there will take care of properly disposing of it.

Over at Linwood Cemetery in Dubuque Monday, dozens of large US flags lined the driveway in a Memorial Day weekend tradition called Avenue of Flags.

Each flag is dedicated to somebody, and on Memorial Day, Casie Pfohl came to see the one flying for her father, US Army veteran Scott Potter, who died this year of cancer.

"He never liked the flag touching the ground," Pfohl said, describing her father's patriotism and respect for the flag. "From when we were young, on, he always helped us, taught us how to fold the flag, and then we would always take it somewhere proper, like the American Legion Hall or something along those lines."

Hildebrand said treating an old US flag like it's a piece of garbage and throwing it in the trash is disrespectful.

"I think [people] just assume that because the flag is tattered and wore out that it can be thrown away like a piece of cloth, and, technically, they probably could, but it's not the proper way of doing it," he said. "There is a proper way because that flag has flown the glory of this country."

He said letting the flag touch the ground is seen as a sign of disrespect to Old Glory, as well as flying an American flag this is tattered or faded.

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