Oct. 5—Hundreds of American flags — tattered, worn or otherwise unusable — will be respectfully retired in a ceremony to be held Saturday, October 23 at 10 a.m. at SomerSport Park on Pumphouse Road.
Clarence Floyd, chaplain with the American Legion Post 38 Honor Guard, said everyone is invited, but he especially wanted to see as many school children and young people as possible.
"I'm hoping that we can get a lot of children this year, because a lot of our younger people don't know about the flag like the older people do," Floyd said.
"If we can do anything to help our young people know what the flag really stands for, and the meaning of it, I think it would make all the difference in the world."
It's been two years since the last public flag retirement ceremony, and Floyd said the American Legion felt like it was a good time to have another one.
They had planned on having one in May, he said, but it turned out to be too hot, and October weather is usually more pleasant.
By law, a flag must be retired respectfully by burning it. During the ceremony, guests will learn about the meaning behind each of the folds when folding a flag, will learn about why flags are retired in the way they are, and will be given the opportunity to participate by handing flags to members of the Somerset Fire Department, who will transfer the flags to barrels for burning.
Floyd said the firefighters will remain on site — even after the ceremony is over — to make sure the area is safe and the fires have been put out.
There are several collection bins around Somerset for people to put worn out flags into: Both Kroger locations, Sgt. Joe's, the American Legion building, the Pulaski County Courthouse, and the Somerset Energy Center.
Floyd said that he can collect between 60 and 90 flags a month out of those bins. The American Legion has between 700 to 800 flags currently that need to be retired.
Those flags can be any U.S. flags that are considered to be unserviceable, ranging in size from the smallest to those flown outside of government buildings.
Once the flags are burned, Floyd said he waits until the ashes are cooled — usually the Monday after the ceremony. Then, he collects the ashes, places them in a plastic bag, and with the help of the Somerset Parks Department he buries them in accordance with federal law.
"[The Parks Department] use a backhoe to dig a little grave and we bury those ashes," he said, usually also at SomerSport park.
The ceremony will be held outdoors, and as such members of the public will not be required to wear masks, but can if they choose.
Floyd said there will be plenty of room for people to observe social distancing. There should be some bleachers available, but the public is welcome to bring lawn chairs if they wish, he said.
In the case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be postponed. Floyd said he would announce a make-up date later if needed.
Along with SFD and the Parks Department, members of the Somerset Police Department and the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office will be assisting. Scheduled participants include Pastor Ryan Coffee to say a prayer, Heather Foister singing the National Anthem, and Somerset Mayor Alan Keck, Pulaski Judge-Executive Steve Kelley and retired Chief Warrant Officer Delynn Gibson as speakers.
The American Legion Post 38 Honor Guard will also be on hand.