11/02/13 — Record retirement

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Record retirement

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on November 2, 2013 11:11 PM

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Flags catch fire at their tattered ends as Sam Wells, 19, lowers them into a barrel. The burning of the flags was part of a dignified retirement ceremony conducted by local Scouts.

A short ceremony and a quick prayer.

It takes just a few reverent moments before battered, tattered and soiled U.S. flags are retired with respect.

And while the ceremony doesn't take long, Boy Scout Troop 64 leader Jason Schoenholz says it is every American's patriotic duty to show each U.S. flag respect, right up until it is removed from active use.

The Boy Scouts of the Tuscarora Council learned how to retire the flag properly Saturday at their annual Fall Camporee. And after incinerating about 1,500 flags, they won't likely forget how to perform the ceremony properly anytime soon.

The Scouts were aiming to set a world record for the most flags retired at one time to commemorate the council's 90th anniversary.

More than 1,000 Scouts attended the camporee at Camp Tuscarora. District Executive Ryan Roberts said the retirement ceremony helps the Scouts to learn more about the importance of the flag.

Schoenholz, a retired Navy seaman, led the ceremonies that continued all day, culminating in the incineration of a huge flag at an evening campfire.

"What we are using is a variation of a Navy ceremony from July, 12, 1776, when the first naval flag was retired," Schoenholz said. "It lets the Scouts and leaders and their parents understand the reasons behind retiring them."

Schoenholz led the Scouts through a brief lesson on the less well-known symbolism of the flag, from the red stripes representing the blood shed for United States and the white stripes, which represent the purity of the nation's ideals, to the blue field that represents justice and the yellow stars that signify God.

The retirement ceremony begins with the flag being cut into three pieces, the stripes, the blue field and a single star cut out of the field. The stripes are then placed in the fire first to symbolize the 13 colonies. The blue field follows, to represent where America is today. The single star in placed on top to symbolize that the country is under God's authority.

"We want to teach them to show dignity and pride to each flag. There is no flag law, but the flag code says that incineration is best, to insure there is nothing left. It is every American's patriotic duty to do it or take it to have it done if their flag is worn or soiled," Schoenholz said.

Schoenholz still keeps the grommets from a flag that flew on the ship on which he served.

"I am one of the last guys alive from my ship, so I keep this," he said.

The grommets from the weekend's ceremonies will be stringed together and hung up to commemorate the event, Scout leaders said.

But the camporee was not just about flags.

There were pioneering and cooking competitions, with Scouts competing in outdoor, backpack and Dutch oven cooking.

In the pioneering events, the Scouts constructed ladders for the lightest Scouts to climb and stands to hold a can of fake "nitroglycerin" steady.

"I liked the nitroglycerin challenge best," said Brandon Maldonado, 16. "We had to build a tripod, but if the bolt in the can hit the side you had to restart."

There also were history exhibits telling the story of the Boy Scouts and the Tuscarora Council.