In the midst of picnics, special sales, beach trips and fun in the sun on Monday, a group of Scouts in DeSoto County were showing respect to the symbol of the nation that was honoring those whose service was remembered on Memorial Day.
In a solemn ceremony surrounding a fire pit on the Getwell Church grounds in Southaven Monday evening, members of local Boy Scouts gathered to accomplish two things, said Kim Ford, Vice Chair of Programs, Northwest Mississippi District of Scouts BSA.
“The purpose for Memorial Day isn’t barbecues and sales,” Ford said. “It is to remember those that have given the ultimate sacrifice, and this is one way they can honor their memory and give back to the community at the same time.”
By properly retiring worn, torn and tattered American flags, Scouts offered respect for the national symbol and honored fallen servicemen and women at the same time.
There is a set procedure for the “retirement” of a worn out flag, Ford said.
“One that is worn beyond use, with any tears or discoloration, or is no longer a fitting emblem for display, it should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning,” Ford explained.
Pack 190 hosted the ceremony, as it has always, each each Memorial Day evening. Pack members invite other Scouts to come and also take part. Ford estimated “between 40-50” Scouts were involved in the ceremony Monday evening.
“They wanted to do it as a way to honor the fallen and to provide a service at the same time,” said Ford. “Flags are to be retired, not just thrown away.”
The Scouts have a specific ceremony that takes place. The meaning of the 13 stripes are explained, seven red and six white. The 13 stripes represent the original 13 colonies, the seven red are for the lie blood of brave men and women who were ready to die for the flag and country. The white stripes represent “the purity and cleanliness of purpose, thought, word and deed.”
The color blue is to remind those who take part about “truth and justice, like the eternal blue of the star-filled heavens,” while the stars are emblematic of each state in the United States.
“During the ceremony, they take a symbolic flag and cut it apart, stripe by stripe,” Ford said. “They do it a stripe at a time and say what that stripe means, whether it is purity or loyalty. The then say and recite what that stripe means and they burn that stripe.”
According to protocol, the blue field is never cut into pieces “because no one should ever let the union be broken.”
“Once it starts the process of being retired, once it is cut, it is no longer a flag,” Ford said.
After the symbolic flag has been completely retired.
When asked what she hopes will be the lesson for all who take part in the solemnity of the ceremony, Ford had just one word to say.
“Respect. Respect for the fallen.”
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.