PUNXSUTAWNEY — An official flag retirement took place Sunday afternoon by the John Jacob Fisher American Legion Post No. 62 at the VFW in Punxsutawney. The retirement began with an official flag ceremony called "Retirement of Old Colors," before the worn-out and distressed flags were put into a bed of flames.
"This is a proper way to retire your flag," said Earnest Siverling, first vice and second in command at American Legion Post No. 62. "We're more than honored to do this with as much respect as we can muster."
The ceremony was officiated by Russell Bair, commander of the American Legion Post No. 62, with five other Legion members present. Jim Uplinger sounded "Taps," a well-known U.S. military tune to signify the end of a ceremony or commemoration.
More than 300 flags were then saluted and retired.
The American Legion has made an old mailbox available for people in the community to drop off their worn-out or damaged flags for retirement. The mailbox is located near the Punxsutawney Memorial Library, and flags can be placed in the mailbox at any time.
According to Siverling, most of the flags are those that have been on graves, but some came from parks, schools and people's homes.
It is the responsibility of veteran organizations to replace the flags on veteran graves before they become too worn-out.
A flag retiring ceremony is done two or three times a year in Punxsutawney, depending on the number of flags donated and replaced.
Because most flags are now made of a polyester product, they are more sustainable.
Legion members said the polyester flags can last for about six months without much damage if flown all the time. Older, cloth flags could only be flown for about three months before they became worn-out.
The polyester product also makes retirement easier because the flags now essentially melt instead of turning to ash, meaning there is very little to clean.
Siverling said some flags donated from community members to be retired have very little damage or discoloring.
"We try our (hardest) to find a home for flags," Siverling said. "If we can't find a home for it, though, it will be retired."
He also said sometimes rare flags are found in the donation mailbox.
Before this retirement, flags with 48 and 46 stars were found, which will be kept by the American Legion.