More than 400 flags retired on Flag Day at Athol American Legion

  • Flag Day was observed at the Athol American Legion Post 102 in Athol Friday. Post 102 officers conducted a flag burning ceremony with the help of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit members. Left to right — Auxiliary member Roberta Newman, First Vice Commander Peter Newman and Post 102 Commander William Graziano. In the rear are Auxiliary member Leanne Stone and her grandson, Liam McGuire. ATHOL DAILY NEWS/DEBORRAH PORTER

  • American Legion Post Auxiliary Unit 102 members assisted with the flag burning ceremony held at the post Friday morning. Left to right – Auxiliary member Bobbie Newman, Leanne Stone and her grandson Liam McGuire, and Christine Mailloux. ATHOL DAILY NEWS/DEBORRAH PORTER

Editor, Daily News
Published: 6/16/2019 11:17:31 AM

ATHOL — In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day; on Aug. 3, 1949, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress.

Whatever day of the week it happens to fall on is the day the Athol American Legion Post 102 conducts its annual flag burning to retire worn-out American flags.

On Friday, a warm, sunny morning, members of AL Post 102 gathered to open the ceremony. Post 102 Commander William Graziano, Senior Vice Commander and Post Chaplain Peter Newman (who is also Sergeant at Arms for the District), and Second Vice Commander Toni Phillips, performed a brief ceremony prior to committing the first American flag to fire.

The process began with the Sergeant of Arms taking a worn flag and formally presenting it to the Second Vice Commander, who inspected it and then presented it to the First Vice Commander for inspection. After the second inspection, it was handed to the Commander who asked “Have these flags been inspected?” He then spoke briefly about the flags saying how, even worn and torn, they continue to represent the values of our country. A brief prayer was given by the Chaplain and the members offered a solemn salute before the flag was lowered into the flames contained in two halves of a 55-gallon drum set up on legs in the middle of the parking lot. Graziano said the containers are used only once a year for this purpose and stored at the Legion.

Also assisting were members of the American Legion Women’s Auxiliary Unit 102, Bobbie Newman, Christine Mailloux, Shirley Graham and Leanne Stone, who was accompanied by her grandson Liam McGuire visiting from Stanford, Conn.

The helpers organized the boxes of worn flags and removed the wood dowels from the smaller flags. The wood parts were burned along with the flags.

The flags which were to be disposed come from the community and local cemeteries, from veterans’ graves who were honored. “New ones are placed a couple days before Memorial Day,” said Graziano, “We gather up all the old ones to be burned.” He noted that the Boy Scouts and a couple students from Athol High School were instrumental in gathering the flags this year.

Peter Newman estimated there were roughly 400 flags on site to be burned. “That’s right now,” he said, “People haven’t even shown up yet.”

Graziano said flags are also brought in by the Department of Public Works and residents will drop off worn flags right at the Legion Home throughout the year. “We don’t seem to have as many this year,” said Graziano, “we had a lot more last year.”

Graziano noted that Flag Day occurs on a Sunday next year and he plans to enlist the aid of the local Boy Scout troop and have a large public ceremony.

“We wont have to worry about the kids being in school next year,” he said. He plans to contact Troop Leader Tom King to organizer a larger event. “God willing, and everything happens and the Boy Scouts help out, it will be a nice ceremony and we can invite the community. If it’s done really nice, it’s dignified. That’s the way to do it.”

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