Va. War Memorial seeks old, worn flags for retirement

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) –Throughout our country’s history, there have been more than two dozen official American flags.

As the U.S. adopted new flags to honor more states — what happens to the retired flags might surprise some people.

“The recommended disposal method is by fire,” says Dr. Dean Decker with American Legion Post 84.

Yes, fire.

Decker is a veteran and de facto flag expert — he now collects them after years of helping to retire flags with the local American Legion.

He says tears and fading color are two criteria for retiring Old Glory.

“There is a set ceremony where flags are brought forward, they are inspected,” said Decker.

“They are deemed to be unworthy of continued service.”

Decker says a burning ceremony is the only recommended way to retire a flag.

While flag burning is protected under the constitution, it is often controversial.

The flag retirement process, however, does not have political motivations and is done in a respectful way.

But from his experience, Decker says the burning ceremony comes with confusion for people who are not familiar with the process or the U.S. Flag Code.

He shared one story about a car slamming on it’s brakes, getting out, and almost reprimanding the men for burning flags — until it became clear what they were doing.

“People do react if they don’t know what’s going on.”

Right now the Virginia War Memorial is partnering with American Legion Post 84 to help people in Central Virginia get rid of flags they might have in their possession.

The collection goes until December 4th.

Through the years, hundreds of old and worn flags have been collected through this campaign.

All people need to do is bring the flags to the War Memorial at 621 South Belvidere Street in Richmond.

“We think its important that as we honor the service of men and women, that we also honor the flag that they fought for,” said Jim Triesler, Director of Education at the Virginia War Memorial.

While this official campaign goes until the beginning of December, Triesler says they will happily accept retired flags all year long and get them to the proper place for disposal.