Legion holds flag-burning ceremony
November 12, 2006
On a quiet Sunday afternoon, at Veterans Memorial Park in Rifle, American Legion Post 78 retired 237 flags. Legion members unraveled the tattered flags and placed each into one of four barrels, where flames engulfed them.To start the ceremony, five legion members presented an enormous flag as American Legion Post 78 commander Jan Detweiler recited a passage from the legion’s manual of ceremonies.”It’s real value is beyond price,” she read. “For it is a precious symbol of all that we and our comrades have worked for and lived for and died for. A free nation of men and women true to the faith of the past, devoted to the ideas and practices of justice, freedom and democracy.”The legion conducts this ceremony to honor what the flags represent.”This is to show respect for the country, as well as the flag,” said Ralph Koehler, an American Legion member in Rifle and a veteran of the U.S. Army.The flag’s meaning to Koehler is apparent.”We [the American Legion] want to show the proper respect for the flag, and we want to continue to give them a proper burning ceremony,” he said.Post 78 has conducted the ceremony in the past, but didn’t have one last year. According to Koehler the traveling Vietnam Wall memorial came to Rifle at the same time the ceremony usually occurs.”A lot of people will throw an old flag in the corner of the broom closet until something like this comes around, then they bring that old flag here,” said Sgt. John Pizzelli, a recruiting officer for the Colorado Army National Guard.Not all of the flags were destroyed on Sunday. Four American flags and two Colorado state flags were deemed serviceable by members of the American Legion and will be given to Boy Scout Troop 223 of Rifle. For the past year, the troop collected flags for the ceremony and will hang the serviceable flags in downtown Rifle on holidays such as Veterans Day and Independence Day.Still, the number of flags retired Sunday surprised Koehler.”We’ve had a pretty good turnout,” he said.