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Retiring Old Glory: Scouts, Woodmen team up on flag depository

PHOTO SUBMITTED / Boy Scout Troop 450 members Tre Chapman (from left), Eli Marbury and Wesley Blazier fold a U.S. flag to be placed in a new flag depository box, which was donated by the Woodmen of the World organization in March.

PHOTO SUBMITTED / Boy Scout Troop 450 members Tre Chapman (from left), Eli Marbury and Wesley Blazier fold a U.S. flag to be placed in a new flag depository box, which was donated by the Woodmen of the World organization in March.

The Woodmen of the World organization recently unveiled a brand new flag depository at the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Government Complex, and it has already been getting a lot of activity.

As part of a special event in March, local Boy Scouts ceremoniously dispensed weathered and damaged flags into the depository. One by one, area World War II veterans assisted the troop members as officials from the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, county and city looked on.

The Woodmen of the World group is a fraternal benefit society that operates a privately held insurance company for its members. Woodmen of the World lodges have presented more than 1.4 million U.S. flags to organizations over the last 60 years.

The flag depositories are being put at various courthouses in Mississippi wherever there is a Woodmen chapter. The Lincoln County depository was one of the first in Mississippi, which also is the first state in the nation to have the depositories, according to local Woodmen of the World members.

“The president of Woodmen of the World in Omaha, Neb., thought this was such a good idea that he turned it over to his community outreach manager,” said Peggy Hawkins, vice president of local Woodmen of the World Chapter 1355. “We thought this ought to go all over the nation.

The new flag depository is located on the first floor lobby of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Government Complex.

The new flag depository is located on the first floor lobby of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Government Complex.

“We already had so many people put flags in the depository in Lincoln County that it was overflowing,” Hawkins said Friday. The Boy Scouts have now removed the flags though, and the depository is ready to receive more flags again.

The local Boy Scouts, who are partnering with Woodmen of the World on the project, pick up the flags and then properly retire them in special ceremonies.

“They have a moving ceremony to retire the flags,” said Peggy Hawkins, whose husband, Boots Hawkins, is president of Woodmen of the World Chapter 9, which along with Chapter 1355, placed the depository in Brookhaven. She said they presented the idea to the county board of supervisors and obtained their help in placing the box at the government complex.

“Eddie Brown, our [District 4] supervisor, jumped right on it, and we were one of the first in the state to have our box installed,” she said. “Sheriff Steve Rushing had some workers help put it place.”

The flag depository boxes are ordered from Florida and then are screen printed at Ingram’s Printing in Forest, Hawkins said. The plaque inscription on the box was written by Linda Derrick of Forest, and six Woodmen chapters across the state are using the same inscription.

“We had one person deposit a flag that had flown over the capitol during the Clinton administration,” Hawkins added.

Another of the flags placed in the depository once flew over the White House during the Reagan years. Edgar Jacks Jr., an area veteran with the American Legion, was waiting for the right time and place to bring the flag in for retirement, and the ceremony in March at the government complex provided him with that opportunity.

With the success of the Lincoln County depository already evident, Peggy Hawkins expects to see the depositories placed throughout the state soon. “I look for there to be a box put in every courthouse in Mississippi that has Scouts that can monitor it.”