Scout leads service to retire old flags

Published 6:00 am Monday, October 27, 2003

Americanism was celebrated Thursday night as about 40 tatteredand frayed U.S. flags were laid to rest with dignity and respect atExchange Club Park.

The flags were laid to rest following the national code fortheir retirement, which states a preference for burning. Ashes fromthe retirement will be flown to and dispersed over VicksburgMilitary Park by Buddy Ratliff, a member of the Exchange Club, whohelped sponsor the event.

The flag retirement ceremony completed an Eagle Scout projectfor Brandon Russell, 17, of Brookhaven and was conducted by BoyScout Troop 911. Russell is a senior patrol leader with thetroop.

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“The flag has always been special to me, and I’m a real sticklerfor doing flag etiquette right,” Russell said. “I just always tryto remember what the flag stands for and everything that has beensacrificed for it.”

Russell served as the event’s master of ceremonies. After abrief speech about the flag and the purpose of the ceremony, heinvited veterans to be the first to place flags in the burnbarrels. A long line of veterans filed past a table heaped highwith flags, selected one and gently tossed it into the barrels tobe consumed by flame.

Scouts of Troop 911 carried the remaining flags to thebarrels.

Russell then gave spectators an opportunity to participate inthe ceremony by burning 2″x2″ squares cut from a flag.

“It was important to me that everyone be able to participate,”he said. “The flag is a living, breathing symbol of America andeveryone should have the opportunity to mourn its passing.”

The idea of holding a flag retirement ceremony came as a way ofmeeting his obligations for promotion from Life Scout to EagleScout, he said. To receive the promotion, a scout must design andconduct a project that is of substantial benefit to the communitythat does not benefit the scout.

“That’s the real challenge of it,” Russell said. “The scout hasto locate a need in the community or a church and design a projectto address that need.”

Russell located the need for the flag retirement while walkingwith his mother earlier this year. It was only a few months afterthe first anniversary of the twin towers tragedy of Sept. 11, 2002,and nearly every house was flying a flag. Many homeowners, however,were breaking a rule in proper flag etiquette, he said, from flyingthe flag wrong to flying a flag that was tattered, frayed, orfilthy.

He decided on his project then, designed flyers explainingproper flag etiquette, and asked area merchants to display them. Healso invited the Exchange Club Americanism Committee to assist himin organizing Thursday night’s ceremony.

As part of the project, the scout must also conduct an eventthat involves other scouts to display his leadership abilities.

“It’s designed to foster leadership in the scout as well asaddress needs,” Russell said.

He said it will still be some time before he receives hispromotion. With the project complete, his Eagle Scout applicationstill needs to be reviewed and approved by the Boy Scout Council.Once the application is approved and he passes an oral test by theBoard of Review, the troop will schedule an Eagle Scout promotionceremony.