You’ll likely see homes and businesses around your community flying Old Glory, the Stars and Stripes, aka the American flag on holidays including Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day or perhaps soaring through the entire summer. The sun, wind and rain takes its toll on flags no matter the material, which leaves some wondering, how to retire an American flag?
At Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium, we’ve made it easy for residents of New Hampshire. Simply bring your retired American flag to one of our locations at 243 Hanover St. in Manchester or 172 King St. in Boscawen.
There is a new mailbox with a red, white and blue flag wrap at our Boscawen location to make it easy to recognize (matching the mailbox at our Manchester location).
All you have to do is place your retired flag into the mailbox slot and we will give it a proper retirement, per the U.S. Flag Code. Congress passed the joint resolution in 1942, providing guidance to how to and how not to display the American flag, and how to retire an American flag.
“When the flag is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem, it should be destroyed in a dignified and ceremonious fashion, preferably by burning,” states the code.
Phaneuf has retired more than 1,000 flags since we started the flag retiring program in 2017. We utilize our crematorium to burn decommissioned or tattered flags in a respectful manner.
Here are ways to properly retire an American flag which are considered respectful:
If you plan to retire an American flag on your own, burial is one of the simplest methods. Properly fold the flag (the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has instructions here or see the illustration below).
Place the flag into a wooden box, and you can then bury it in your backyard while observing a moment of silence. You can mark the burial location with an object as a reminder of the flag’s importance so it’s never forgotten.
While it may seem aggressive in nature, shredding the American flag is a proper disposal method according to the U.S. Army’s Heraldry Institute. Use a sharp pair of scissors to carefully separate the flag’s 13 stripes. Leave the blue section with white stars whole. Once shredded, bury the pieces in a respectful manner as above or ceremonially burn them, piece by piece.
Despite the negative connotation generally associated with flag burning, incineration is the purest method of flag retirement. This does not mean simply setting a flag on fire. The proper method of incineration involves ceremonially laying the flag on a bonfire while saluting the flag alongside the speaking of the Pledge of Allegiance or singing of the National Anthem.
This is not a common occurrence at private residences, which is another reason why Phaneuf offers the flag retiring mailboxes. We also offer families of deceased veterans the opportunity for the cremation of their loved ones with one of these flags.
The New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery is less than two miles from Phaneuf’s Boscawen location, and our site offers an extensive list of veterans benefits here. The cemetery in Boscawen provides free burial space for veterans, and veterans can pre-apply to confirm eligibility.
While the flag is traditionally draped over the casket during a veteran’s funeral service, in the case of a veteran’s cremation, the flag is hung over the urn or receptacle, before the flag-folding ceremony.
The flag-folding ceremony at a funeral service is a very impactful way to commemorate the life of a veteran or fallen soldier. During the flag-folding ceremony, the flag is carefully folded a total of 13 times by six honor guards, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
The proper display of the American flag
- The union should be at the peak of the staff when displayed from a staff projecting from a building.
- Display the flag flat, whether indoors, outside or suspended so that its folds fall freely as though staffed.
- Suspend the flag vertically with the union to the north in an east and west street, or to the east in a north and south street, when displayed over a street.
- In a church or auditorium, the flag should occupy the position of honor and reside at a speaker’s right as they face the audience.
- At half-staff, hoist the flag first to the peak for an instant and then lower it to half-staff position. It should again raise to the peak before being lowered for the day.
This blog post answers the questions:
- How to retire a flag?
- How to retire an American flag?
- How do you properly display the American flag?
How to retire a flag?
Here are ways to properly retire a flag which are considered respectful: burial, incineration or shredding.
How to retire an American flag?
When the flag is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem, it should be destroyed in a dignified and ceremonious fashion, preferably by burning, states the U.S. Flag Code.
How do you properly display the American flag?
The union should be at the peak of the staff when displayed from a staff projecting from a building.
The flag should be displayed flat, whether indoors, outside or suspended so that its folds fall freely as though the flag were staffed.
The flag should be suspended vertically with the union to the north in an east and west street, or to the east in a north and south street, when displayed over a street.
In a church or auditorium, the flag should occupy the position of honor and be placed at a speaker’s right as they face the audience.
At half-staff, the flag should first be hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to half-staff position. It should again be raised to the peak before being lowered for the day.