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A proper farewell for flags

The Farmington American Legion is collecting flags that are no longer fit to display. It will burn the flags Saturday.

Since a fire gutted the Farmington American Legion 2 1/2 years ago, folks around there sometimes get a little skittish when the subject of burning things comes up.

But that's not going to be the case this Saturday. Farmington American Legion Post 189 is actually setting out to burn things. And not just any things - they're going to burn the flag of the United States of America.

The American Legion is holding a flag burning ceremony. It's something the Legion endorses as a proper, respectful disposal of flags that have reached the end of their lifespan.

This week, Farmington American Legion commander Leonard Weisbrich talked a little about the American flag, its significance and what a flag burning ceremony is all about.

Let's start by talking about what the US flag means to veterans. Why, exactly, is it so important you?

It's a symbol of freedom and honor to serve your country. You display it to show what we have, if that makes any sense.

After the homecoming parade, you had mentioned some people were not standing when the color guard passed by. Why is that important?

Because it's one of the few times they have a chance to recognize and honor the flag. They should be standing up and honoring the flag, for that freedom. It just shows your support. That you support the United States, and that you recognize what we have. It's very disgusting when you walk by and people don't stand up and honor it like they should. There were more kids that stood up than adults. At least they have some idea of what it's all about. You can stand up for two seconds.

With this flag burning ceremony next weekend, what is the significance of that ceremony?

To retire a flag that has been weathered and faded and no longer rightfully serves its purpose with the bright colors. But there's a lot of determining factors of what you consider weathered. Faded, ripped. It doesn't look good. I think it's a hard decision to make. The purpose of it is to properly destroy the flags that are withered, faded, or whatever.

So what does the ceremony include?

You have two individuals present a flag to the Commander, saying, "This flag no longer can serve its purpose, as we've determined. We bring it to you for your inspection." Then you have to determine if it meets the requirements. That is the only way it is properly taken out of service - that it's burned. The purpose is to properly replace old flags with new ones.

There is a prayer. The chaplain offers prayer over the flags to be burned. You're basically saying thank you for your service, and now you can be properly disposed of.

How many flags are we talking about here?

Clem (Becker, vice commander) thinks there's probably 200. I would be willing to bet we have at least 400 for sure.

And how often does the Legion do these ceremonies?

At least once a year. The ashes have to be hauled away because you can't put those toxins in a landfill.

Most of those flags have been deposited at the Legion?

Right. They can bring them there. They come from schools, businesses, homes.

Are you still accepting flags?

Oh yes. Always.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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