Retire your unserviceable American Flag with respect this Flag Day

Firefighters watching a flag being lowered for retirementThe American Legion recommends holding flag retiring ceremonies on Flag Day, June 14

Most people commemorate Flag Day on June 14 by flying American flags high and proud, but Flag Day is also an important date for flag retiring ceremonies, according to the American Legion.

Organizations like Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) perform flag retiring ceremonies where families, friends, and groups gather in patriotic recognition of the history and sacrifices made for freedom.

When it comes to retiring your worn-out U.S. flag, you can't simply throw it in the trash. Proper etiquette and respect are essential to avoid disrespecting our nation's colors.

Flag that torn and flying high

Consider these guidelines to retire your flag in a respectful, environmentally friendly manner during a Flag Day ceremony.

  1. Disposal of Unserviceable Flags: Burning the flag in a bonfire is the preferred disposal method according to the American Legion. Ensure the flag is folded correctly before burning it completely. Remember, this method is only suitable for flags made of natural fibers like wool, cotton and silk Burning flags made of synthetic, petroleum-based products releases toxic gases like formaldehydes, ammonia, and carbon monoxide, among other chemicals.
  2. Flag Burial: If your flag is made of polyester, nylon, or other synthetic materials, burying it is a dignified option. Before burying, properly fold the flag and place it in a sturdy container or wooden box. Avoid letting the flag touch the ground or dirt. Bury it a few feet underground, preferably accompanied by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and observing a moment of silence.
  3. Flag Donation: If you prefer not to burn or bury your flag, you can donate it to organizations that accept flag donations. Reach out to your local American Legion, VFW, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, or fire department. These organizations will ensure that your flag is retired appropriately, with the respect it deserves.

Additional Resources

VFW provides etiquette for handling the U.S. flag and retiring it and a section in the U.S. Flag Code outlines how to treat flag with respect.