Hinsdale American Legion Post 250 joined Elmhurst American Legion Post 187 on Saturday for a flag disposal ceremony. Each post collected more than 300 faded and tattered flags from the community.
The ceremony, held in the Elmhurst Legion parking lot on Butterfield Road, was formal and dignified, with about two dozen participants.
The veterans followed a suggested script in retiring the flags:
“Comrade commander, we wish to present a number of unserviceable flags of our country for inspection and disposal,” Don Kempf, of the Elmhurst Legion, said.
“Comrade sergeant-at-arms, advance with your detail and present the flags for inspection and disposal,” Hinsdale post member Joe Craig responded.
The ceremony lasted only about five minutes, but the flag disposal would continue for hours.
The official way to dispose of the flags would be to unfold each one and ceremoniously lay it down on top of the fire, but with more than 600 flags, “you might be here for a week,” said Craig, whose post also is involved in teaching flag etiquette at local schools.
Since some of the flags are made of nylon, it’s best not to be immediately down-wind of the fire, Elmhurst Post Adjutant Bud Jason said. Veterans' groups in some municipalities have a permanent burn permit; the Elmhurst Fire Department is aware of the ceremony and has told Elmhurst post members, “Don’t call us unless you need us,” Jason said.
The ceremony is held annually to commemorate Flag Day June 14, which is the date in 1777 when the United States approved the design for the first national flag.
The Elmhurst post also holds flag disposal ceremonies periodically with local Boy Scouts, who certainly don’t mind burning things, Jason said.
“We sometimes have to get them to slow it down a little bit,” he said.
“We’ve got flags, and they collect some flags. It helps us out and it gives them an awareness, too.”