“Comrade Commander, we wish to present a number of unserviceable Flags of our Country for inspection and disposal.”
Thus began a very special ceremony conducted by Winslow’s VFW Post 3076 on the afternoon of July 4. Approximately 40 people were in attendance as Ron Gibbs, the Commander of the Post, directed the ceremony.
Serving under Gibbs was Sergeant at Arms Freddie Baca. Cort Marshall served as the Color Guard Commander over Ben Clay, Andy Ballejos and Freddie Marquez.
Lyyna Rodriques represented the Junior Girls unit of the Auxilliary. Brenda Gibbs stood as representative of the Ladies’ Auxilliary.
“A Flag may be a flimsy bit of printed gauze, or a beautiful banner of finest silk. Its intrinsic value may be trifling or great; but its real value is beyond price, 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 free men, true to the faith of the past, devoted to the ideals and practice of Justice, Freedom and Democracy,” reads a formal program from Washington D.C.
“Let these faded Flags of our Country be retired and destroyed with respectful and honorable rites and their places be taken by Bright new Flags of the same size and kind, and let no grave of our soldier or sailor dead be unhonored and unmarked. Sergeant-at-Arms, assemble the Color Guard, escort the detail bearing the flags and destroy these Flags by burning.”
Dameon Gibbs and Richard Macayo were on hand to hold the flags after posting, while the ceremony continued.
The Chaplain, Milton Baca, blessed the flags to be retired thusly: “Almighty God, Captain of all hosts and Commander over all, bless and consecrate this present hour. We thank Thee for our Country and its Flag, and for the liberty for which it stands. To clean and purging flame we commit these Flags, worn out in worthy service. As they yield their substance to the fire, may Thy Holy Light spread over us and bring to our hearts renewed devotion of God and Country. Amen.”
Mayor Jim Boles received an invitation to participate in the Flag Retirement ceremony—an honor he gratefully accepted.
“It was a nice ceremony,” Mayor Boles said. “In my speech, I indicated that I appreciated how they were holding this ceremony, and that this is the only kind of flag burning that I approve of.”
There are people who burn the flag to show their disapproval of this country, and out of disrespect, Boles continued, but pointed out that in this ceremony the flag is being retired where from its use it is no longer in good condition and appearance to represent the country.
Post Commander Ron Gibbs said that 78 flags were retired and that each individual who attended the ceremony were given the honor of retiring a flag.
Robyn Gibbs, President of the Women’s Auxiliary, said that the flags were obtained from businesses and other individuals of Winslow.
“The Police Department, Fire Department, Wal-Mart, the VFW Post and other businesses brought in flags. Others came from people here in Winslow who flew them at their private homes,” Ms.Gibbs said.
“We don’t like to use the term ‘burning,” she continued. “It’s actually against the law to burn a flag. You can actually go to prison for burning a flag.”
“I was glad to see some young people there,” Boles commented. “By witnessing and participating in this ceremony, there is an indication that the flag is due respect and is to be cared for properly—and when it is no longer able to be used, then it needs to be retired with honors.”
Boles was given the privilege of retiring the first flag, and he described the ceremony thusly:
“The procedure was to be escorted to pick up the flag, then each individual was escorted to the burning site, where there was a container of kerosene. The flag was partially dipped in the kerosene and then dropped in a barrel prepared for that purpose,” Boles said.
Boles offered his appreciation to the Fire Department for providing a unit and man (Gilbert Moncoyo) on hand to ensure that the fire did not get out of control.
“We honored veterans from the Korean Conflict (represented by Marvin Marquez), World War II (represented by Vincent Alarid), Vietnam (represented by Freddie Marquez) and Desert Storm veterans—the ceremony was well-represented by people who had given time to the service of their country,” Boles concluded. “The VFW Post chose July the 4th as the date to do this, since it was our Nation’s birthday.”
“We also paid honor to the young men and women who are involved in Iraq,” Ms. Gibbs added.
Note: The VFW Post is teaming up with Chuck Hodge’s Torch Run in scheduling a Youth Appreciation event for August 14, which will include a barbeque luncheon, games and youth dances. The event will begin at 10 a.m. and run to 6 p.m. At that time, the VFW will retire to the Standing on the Corner Park where Police Cpl Hodge will give out prizes.