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American Flag Disposal - How to Retire an American Flag

Posted: 6-23-14 | Parker Flags

When you go through the process of American flag disposal, it is called the Retiring of the Colors. This is typically done when an American flag is so weathered and in such bad condition that it isn't a fitting emblem of display.

According to the United States Flag Code, it “should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” There are several ways to dispose of the American flag without showing disgrace, so let’s take a look at how to retire an American flag respectfully.

The most common method is burning the torn or tattered flag in a special ceremony.

Here are the steps you should follow to retire an American Flag.

  1. Raise the flag on the pole or staff or hold it aloft by hand.
  2. Salute and recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
  3. Lower the flag and begin folding it in a customary triangle manner.
  4. Prepare a large enough fire space to burn the flag completely.
  5. Place the flag in the fire and as it burns, those in attendance should salute and/or recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
  6. End the ceremony with a moment of silence and bury the ashes once the flag is completely consumed.

Alternative American Flag Disposal Process

Another process for American Flag disposal uses scissors, and in this instance the flag is also burned. However, before burning it is cut apart which allows it to burn completely.

  • Ensure that you are keeping the flag off the ground, and cut the stars out of the canton.
  • Next, cut the stripes apart.
  • With dignity, put the stripes into the fire and let the material burn completely.
  • Finally, place the canton into the fire and let it burn completely.

There are organizations across the United States that will collect and oversee the process of disposal or teach you how to retire an American Flag. To find these organizations in your community, contact your local Boy Scouts of America, American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars. Parker Flags offers U.S. made American Flags for sale to replace your worn out flag.