A flag retirement ceremony was held Wednesday afternoon at the Val Verde County Fairgrounds, where attendees also honored the lives of fallen service members and civilians lost on Sept. 11, 2001.
Project: Pledge of Allegiance Coordinator Steve Rosalez began the project in 2007, after seeing people had flags in disrepair. Rosalez asked people to retire the flags or allow him to retire the flags for them.
The first ceremony took place at the Dr. Alfredo Gutierrez Amphitheater, and after that it has been held at the fairgrounds at no charge to the groups participating in the event.
Groups and associations present for the ceremony were the Laughlin Air Force Base Boy Scouts of America Troop 280, Laughlin Air Force Base Boy Scouts of America Venture Crew 280, Laughlin Air Force Base Girl Scouts Troop 1186, Laughlin Air Force Base Civil Air Patrol, Del Rio Elks Lodge 837, Veterans of Foreign War 8852, Val Verde County Fire Department and Laughlin Air Force Base Honor Guard.
The ceremony traditionally is held on Sept. 11 to coincide with Patriot Day and honor the fallen service members and civilian lives lost from the terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.
Flags donated by citizens were burned on the Val Verde County Fairgrounds. The two preferred methods to retire the flags are by burning or burial, although the former is the preferred, according to Rosalez.
According to the flag code, “The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.” The code also states, “The flag, when it is in such a condition that is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”
According to Rosalez, the code is not punishable nor a mandatory law, it’s a guide. The code was established to keep the display, treatment and disposal of flags decent.
Over 2,100 flags were retired during the ceremony. George Hilbig sang the national anthem and the Del Rio Gypsies Motorcycle Club escorted the Prisoners of War and Missing in Action flag to its place of honor.
The event also included a Prisoner of War and Missing in Action ceremony. Veterans of Foreign War Post Commander Ventura Mancha spoke of the symbolism of each placement at the Prisoner of War table.
Due to the large number of flags retired, the Del Rio Elks Lodge 843 held a flag retirement ceremony on Thursday.
Rosalez said people can drop off flags at the Veterans of Foreign War office or at the Elks Lodge building, after 4 p.m.
According to Rosalez, the ceremony is about kids present at the ceremony learning patriotism.