This year, Sacred Heart School’s students held their annual Flag Retirement
Ceremony or “Burning of the Flag”, on November 9th, which has been a patriotic tradition in
this school for four years now. Held near the time of Veteran’s Day, this ceremony serves as a
way for the school to honor our great nation of the United States when a flag has become too
worn to fly. In this case, the flag must be retired in a respectful way, and one way of doing that
is by burning it.
For the past few weeks, the middle school students were buzzing with activity,
preparing for this special day as they created patriotic posters and decorations for the
campus in honor of our country’s flag. The older students organized the retirement
itself, composed prayers and petitions, and formed a choir for respect when the flag was
burned. The 8th grade students of Sacred Heart added their finishing touches to the
organization of this year’s 2017 Flag Retirement Ceremony, with their newly-made decorations.
“It takes a lot of collaboration, and some
research of the [retirement’s] requirements,” says 8th grade teacher, Heidi
Manning, “Once the students find that they have all this, they get ready to put together the
ceremony plan. It’s always executed wonderfully and is worth the work to show our patriotism.”
Sacred Heart School’s ceremony is performed by the 8th graders in front of the rest of the
student body, as it always has, with the selected students retiring an old campus or local flag.
This event does become quite the experience for the school’s students, with the sight of
putting an American Flag in a fire. “It gives me a sense of reverence and respect for our
country,” explains Sacred Heart School student, Naomi, “Though I don’t know why we
Well, why is this ceremony really performed in our country, let alone, in this school?
These kind of flag retirements (in which a flag is turned to ashes), in general, are the most
ceremonial. According to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Handbook, “A national flag that is
worn beyond repair may be burned in a fire. The ceremony should be conducted with dignity and
respect and the flag burned completely to ashes.” This is, actually, the most common way to
retire an old flag. It is the most preferred by the U.S. Flag Code, being performed by schools,
cities, and other organizations of public patriotic events across the country, which include Sacred
Heart. These ceremonies are usually fairly simple, but, like the BSA Handbook states, must be
executed with the utmost respect and honor.
Now, you may be wondering why this tradition remains to be so special to Sacred Heart
School, and why many other people and schools in America perform this ceremony as well. It’s
as simple as this: To honor our country. “We do it as a sign of our patriotism and respect for our
nation,” states Christine Benner, principal of Sacred Heart School, “when our flags become worn
and must be retired, we [as a school] like to honor that.” This statement remains true for many
other schools and citizens of our country as they too hold these retirements.
During Sacred Heart’s rendition of the retirement ceremony, a contained fire is first lit
over logs of wood. Following this procedure, the worn flag is cut into strips and squared
sections, as an 8th grade student begins to narrate all the steps being taken as everything unfolds.
The cut pieces of the flag are then folded or rolled, waiting to be placed into the fire, all the while
with patriotic music being played by the school’s student volunteer choir in the background.
After this solemn process, all viewers of the ceremony wait in silence as the flag turns into ashes,
and the retirement is complete. The process held at Sacred Heart School is displayed and executed
similarly to other flag retirement ceremonies involving the burning of the flag, and could stand as an example of what one would be like.
The school’s special day is completed, with all students and peers of Sacred Heart calling it an astounding experience.
With the staff and students dressed in colors red, white, and blue that day to represent the country’s flag, Middle School teacher, Heidi Manning summarized this special day saying, “And in the end, we are all blessed patriots of this nation.”
Written by Jessica, a Middle School Student