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Flag retirement ceremony in New York questionable

A flag retirement ceremony in New York seems awkward at times as a pristine American flag is fumbled by veterans.
A flag retirement ceremony in New York seems awkward at times as a pristine American flag is fumbled by veterans.
Fox News

On the weekend edition of Fox and Friends, Sunday 23, 2013, a segment featured Ed Shetland, a New York City sanitation worker. Shetland’s sworn mission is to recover tattered American Flags and give them proper retirement rites. His pledge to give worn, tattered, or wrongfully discarded flags an appropriate retirement is nonetheless patriotic. Mr. Shetland is himself a patriot in the highest order for taking on such a daunting task. However, on this beautiful Sunday, the flag retirement ceremony seemed somewhat questionable for a few reasons.

Today we’re going to retire this flag with the honor and dignity that it deserves. It served a very good cause flying over the house of a patriotic American family in Rockaway Park, New York. And now it’s going to get a fitting retirement.

Mr. Shetland has been rescuing American Flags for over 20 years during his career.

At first, the ceremony held live in the street just outside of the Fox News Studios appeared quite orderly and dignified. The Honor Guard, Cub Scouts, veterans, and musicians looked comfortable in the setting and confident in their roles.

However, the physical condition of the flag to be retired did not reveal any torn or tattered characteristics that would warrant retirement. The flag in question had sharp pristine edges, brilliant color, and a uniform representation of all 50 stars and 13 stripes. This flag was deserving of continuing to fly as a symbol in honor of America.

At times, flag handlers fumbled the unfolding and final placement of the flag on the fire. With noticeable angst in his voice, Mr. Shetland had to verbally direct the ceremony, handlers, and musicians.

As well, the ceremony was conducted in the morning. Authorities on the matter suggest that the flag should be flown until just before sunset. The color guard should fold the flag in a rectangle; not the traditional tri-fold. The flag can then be retired in a flame capable of consuming the flag entirely.

None of these events took place. The flag was placed haphazardly in a wad upon a meager fire.

The U.S. Scouting Service Project even suggests that Old Glory should be cut into four pieces before burning.

Perhaps Mr. Shetland is more accustomed to retiring Old Glory by himself or with a team of presenters who perform this ceremony on a regular basis. As well, the family who donated the flag for retirement may have requested its retirement and nothing else.

However, if none of these assumptions hold true, then a miscarriage of duty has occurred. Several patriotic organizations exist that take flag donations for resale or distribution. Moreover, many families would be honored to fly the flag in question over their own home if asked.

Principally, Old Glory should be treated with respect and dignity. She should never be discarded in a way that is inconsistent with established retirement protocol.

Augusta Political Buzz does not suggest that Mr. Shetland or any of the ceremony participants violated this protocol with any forethought. However, the ceremony gave the impression that its members were not comfortable with the proceedings and that Mr. Shetland did not explore all possible options for a flag worthy of flying.

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