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Scouts help at flag retirement ceremony

• Proper disposal requires burning

Posted: June 16, 2008 1:12 a.m.
Updated: August 17, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Cub Scouts from pack 575 in Saugus watch as fellow Scouts take turns burning retired flags Friday night at the Elks Lodge flag retirement ceremony.

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All across the world, people of various backgrounds, ethnicities and religions fly flags as symbols to define who they are and where they are from.

In the United States of America, the stars and stripes evoke strong associations of freedom and democracy.

But as with anything made of cloth or plastic, flags eventually lose their luster and wear out - and no amount of symbolism or emotion can bring back their physical brightness.

Thankfully, there is a place where proud citizens can "retire" their flags with respect and honor. Here in the Santa Clarita Valley, that place is Elks Lodge No. 2379 in Canyon Country.

"Retire the flags of your country with dignity," Rick Dalton, exalted ruler of Elks Lodge No. 2379, said in a statement. "It will make you feel good."

The Elks honored several worn-out American flags at their lodge on Friday. Boy and Girl Scout troops collected American flags of all shapes, sizes and material over the last twelve months, while several local residents donated their worn-out flags directly to the Elks Lodge.

"What we do is ask people in the community to bring old flags so they can be properly retired," said Betty Seldner, a spokeswoman for the Elks Lodge. "It is very dramatic and pretty touching."

Seldner added that the flag retirement ceremony is scheduled as close to Flag Day as possible. This year Flag Day fell on June 14, and the ceremony was held one day prior on the 13th.

Several Boy and Girls Scouts proudly presented the flags they spent all year collecting, folding them as they were taught by their leaders.

Before the flags were taken outside to be burned and officially retired, the audience performed the Pledge of Allegiance and sang "God Bless America."

Moments later, a member of the Elks Lodge read a history of the American flag, which provided insight into how the flag was designed and the significance of its colors and shapes.

Once the proper salutations were performed, all the flags were taken outside by the Scouts, who presented the flags to Lodge members and prepared them to be retired in a 50-gallon container with a large flame.

"It is a nice service to the community," Seldner said. "Anyone who sees the event is touched by it."

She added that people may bring in their worn-out flags year-round to the Elks Lodge, which is located at 17766 Sierra Highway in Canyon Country.

Flags will be retired again next year on Flag Day.

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