Veterans groups, Scout troops, and the Schuylkill Memorial Park held their 5th annual American Flag Retirement Ceremony recently at the Schuylkill Memorial Park Cemetery in Schuylkill Haven.
Despite occasional rain showers that day, thousands of battered, torn, and worn American, state, and POW flags were burned in a flag retirement burning and interment ceremony.
Among the veterans groups participating were the Tamaqua American Legion Post 173, Lakewood American Legion Post 583, New Philadelphia AMVETS Post 256, New Philadelphia American Legion Post 677 and others. Boy Scout and Cub Scout packs from Schuylkill Haven, Orwigsburg, Auburn, Summer Hill, and Pine Grove also participated in the ceremony.
The Schuylkill Memorial Park Cemetery has an ossuary made specifically for flag ash remains.
The opening remarks were done by Schuylkill Memorial Park Part of the American flag retirement ceremony states, "When an American Flag is faded and worn, no longer in a condition fit for display as our national colors, it should not be cast aside or treated in any way that might be viewed as disrespectful but should be buried or destroyed by fire in a proper ceremonial manner."
A few years ago, the Schuylkill Memorial Park Cemetery built a veterans memorial garden monument that encloses an underground ossuary vault with deposit receptacle built specifically for ceremonial flag ash remains. Summer Hill Boy Scout Troop 651, Auburn Boy Scout Troop 617, Port Carbon Cub Scout Troop, and Pottsville Girl Scout Troop 1067 all helped and participated in the flag retirement ceremony.
American Legion members Al Lechleitner and Joel Perry performed the flag inspection prior to the burning. The ceremony started with a musical prelude. Frank and Chris Grabowski, supervisors of the Schuylkill Memorial Park Cemetery, were the narrators and co-organizers of ceremonies. The national anthem was sung by Andrew Gabrielle, 14, of Boy Scouts troop 651.
Invocation and benediction were done by Reverend Brad Walmer. There was also recognitions of various awards for a number of boy and cub scouts. The guest speaker was Major James Smith, U.S. Army retired, who served in Afghanistan.
The interment of the last year's flag remain ashes were done by ceremony honoree Sgt Edward Mady of the Pennsylvania National Guard. The scouts and observers were asked to show their respect for the American flag by putting the battered or torn flags into raised fire receptacles. In addition to playing taps, the Tamaqua American Legion provided a firing detail for the ceremony.
Representative Tim Seip (D-125) was also an honorary guest during the ceremony.