Monday, July 9, 2012

World's Most Expensive Flag - continued

Once again, Larry joins me for the update to last week's blog on the World's Most expensive Flag.

Previously my wife, Lorna, blogged about my owning the world’s most expensive flag.
It’s true. Some forty years ago, just after we moved into our first house, a person came to the front door selling American flags for some worthy cause. I don’t remember what the cause was, but I’m sure it must have been worthy.
A twenty-five dollar donation and I became the owner of the flag, complete with mounting bracket, and two-piece aluminum pole topped with a nifty genuine plastic eagle. I reasoned, we didn’t have a flag and needed one for the house. It was a weak moment, I must admit.
On our next trip to the local drug store, Lorna pointed out the identical boxed flag sets on sale for $2.95. And for the past forty years, she has reminded me of my extravagance on every holiday: every Presidents Day, Fourth of July, Memorial, Labor, Veterans Day, etc.
Because of the expense, I have endeavored to take very good care of my prized flag, carefully storing it at night and bringing it inside in inclement weather. And it’s lasted for more than forty years, far longer than just any old $2.95 flag deserved. Still, over the years it had become somewhat faded and thin in places.
Now, I have sad news to report. Yesterday evening, July third, I was shocked to see that the extended wing of the genuine plastic eagle had caught and ripped a one-foot gash parallel to, and between the twelfth and thirteenth stripes. Unfortunately, the material has become too thin and worn to accept sewing back together. I must conclude its time has come. It will need to be replaced.
I put it out on July 4, 2012 for the last time. I figured it deserved one last day in the sun before being officially retired.

I went on the Internet to discover the proper way to dispose of an American flag. Here’s what I found on USA flag site ( and The Flag Keepers (

There are several ways in which you may give your American flag the proper retirement without showing disgrace to this great country. If you would like to dispose of the flag yourself then the most fitting way is to hold your own, private ceremony. The U.S. Flag Code states, "The flag, when it is in such a condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferable by burning." After your flag has been burned, the ashes should be buried. If you cannot burn and bury the flag yourself, Flag Keepers will retire your flag in a proper and respectful ceremony for a price. Or several other organizations that will retire your flag are: VFW, American Legion, Boy or Girl Scouts of America, and Marine Corps League.

Since I’m not personally into burning flags and burying ashes, I will contact the Marine Corps for proper retirement.

Also while I’m on the subject of flags, I have a story told me by my cousin-in-law, Ron Walker. He was Director of National Parks from 1973 to 1975.
During his tenure as director, a park ranger was killed in the line of duty. Ron immediately directed that all National Park flags be lowered to half-staff. About twenty minutes later, his phone rang.
“Ron,” the voice said. “This is President Nixon.”
“Yes Mr. President” Ron quickly responded, all the while thinking. Why is the president calling me personally?
“Ron,” the voice continued. “I was just wondering why the flag on the White House is at half-staff.”
Then Ron remembered. The White House is also a national monument, and therefore subject to park rules. He explained the situation to the President.
“Fine,” Nixon responded, “I just wanted to know. Proceed.”
He hung up, and Ron breathed a sigh of relief.

While I have treated this blog lightly and with humor, there is a seriousness to it. My old flag itself is merely a piece of cloth, and dye, and stitching. It is not my country. It is a symbol of my country. Honored for what it represents, not for some magic or inherent value. The new replacement flag will be just as much a symbol and just as honored as was the old one. However, the old flag has been part of our family for so long, through bi-centennials, 911, births and deaths, and all the other events of our lives, both good and bad, for the past forty years. As I fold it up for the last time, I’m reminded of standing on a hill before my father’s flag-draped coffin and hearing the sweet tones of a lone bugle playing "Taps."

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