On June 14, American Legion Post 286 hosted its annual Flag Day ceremony with 15,000 unserviceable American flags being retired and burned. It took several days to hang the flags and dozens of gallons of kerosene to soak them. Approximately 400 guests from all over the district and local residents came out to honor the flag and those who have made sacrifices for all that it represents.
The tradition began in September 1937 with a resolution that was passed by the 19th National Convention of The American Legion in New York. Since that time, the American Legion has born the burden of responsibility for unserviceable flag retirement across the United States. The local chapter ceremony began at 7:30 PM with a paratrooper being dropped from an airplane, towing an American flag with him to the ground. His landing initiated opening remarks from First Vice Commander of Post 286, David Flook, who was standing in for Commander Keith Sage who is recovering from a surgery. Along with recognizing local civil servants and visiting veterans, Flook also recognized those national leaders who were injured in recent attacks in Alexandria, Virginia.
According to Flook, the camaraderie of the event is as valuable as the tradition itself. “It brings people together. A lot of veterans come out and various groups participate in the ceremony. Believe it or not, there are fewer and fewer of us veterans each year.” Flook served in the Air Force during Vietnam War and had the opportunity during his brief address to highlight the heroic story of a 1967 Vietnam POW.
Flook reported the accounts of those who knew Lieutenant Mike Christian, whose plane was shot down over enemy lines in ‘67. In captivity, the 27-year-old young man found ways to sew a likeness of the American flag into his clothes so that he and his fellow prisoners could pledge their allegiance each day. Despite torture, the fearless young man repeated the offense to remind himself and the men with him of their home and the values they were fighting to defend.
With this sobering reminder, the color guard and firing squad brandished flags and guns to commemorate the past, the present, and the future of Old Glory. Larry Cordell, Ray Fisher, Mike Blackwell, Corey White and Larry Chrisman served on the color guard. Ray Fisher from Englewood’s Third District of Ohio said, “We’re here as a support to the post for the ceremony but it has a lot of significance for each of us. We’re glad to be able to be involved.”
Jacque Mullin is the first female on the color guard and the firing squad at Post 286. Retired Air Force, she served her country for more than 10 years. She vehemently expressed a sense of urgency that there be an understanding of sacrifice and values by the younger generation, including her children and grandchildren who were present at the event. “It’s wonderful that Ohio really does honor its veterans like no other state. This post wrapped their arms around me when I came 3 years ago and we are all here today for our veterans. That flag represents all of our freedom.”
Taps was played as the flags were set ablaze in a fire that sent a pillar of black cloud high into the sky. According to Flook, “This is always such a heartwarming experience for everyone. We want to reflect on the men and women who have given their lives for the flag and for our freedom. It’s sad but it’s also a happy time for all of us.”