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Retiring “Old Glory” with Fire

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On June 14, also known as Flag Day, the local Boy Scouts of America (BSA) chapter held a public event to retire 30 American flags by way of a ceremonial burning. The honoring was held at Paul Revere Lodge #419 just off Sunshine Grove Road on Friday near sunset. Senior Patrol Leader (SPL) Wyatt Oden led the local scout troop in the proceedings, as they began with the Pledge of Allegiance before Chaplain Aide Alex Jenkins led the gathering in prayer.

During Oden’s brief speech honoring the flags, the troops bequeathed the grommets that once adorned the flags to select military members and first responders. “The grommet symbolizes the sacrifices that these men and women have made for their country,” the SPL said. “It is a reminder of all they do to protect us.”

The solemn ceremony saw various military and masonic lodge members look on as boys and girls from the local scout troops each respectfully placed flags in the fire. They did so one after the other after the previous flag had burned away completely. Though the BSA has retired many flags throughout the years, this was the first one they have performed publicly.

In fact, they are one of only three organizations besides the military that are authorized by Congress and the U.S. Flag Code to burn American flags. The code itself states that this emblem of freedom should be “destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” Senior Warden Adam Oden has had many discussions with adults and was continually surprised by how few had actually seen a ceremonial flag burning.

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“Why don’t we do something where we can invite the public?” Adam thought. “They do not have to stay, but they can at least turn the flags in, so they are retired in a dignified way.” Oden also figured that if people had questions about scouting or freemasonry, they could take the opportunity to ask Adam or other members about the organizations.

The senior warden told the Sun that the local masonic lodge took it upon themselves to charter Cub Scout Pack 43, which includes kindergarteners through fifth graders, as well as two scout troops: troop 443B (boys) and 443G (girls).

Adam and Scout Master/Worshipful Master of the lodge, Michael Pecora, allow their troops to be led by the youth in the organization. The adults are there more so to provide assistance through “making sure they are safe, and they are doing what they are supposed to be doing,” said Oden.

Besides housing this chapter of the boys’ and girls’ scout troops, masonry orders (Freemasons, Shriners, etc.) also help communities around the country through donations for college, field trips, and more. According to estimates shared by Oden, these organizations donate about two million dollars a day to various causes.

As Adam stated, the Masonic code is to “take good men and make them better.” He feels that this aligns the scouts and the masons because the principle in scouting is to take young people and make them leaders and better citizens. In doing so, the troops are also taught proper respect for the United States and “Old Glory.”

“Honor me, respect me, and defend me with your lives,” Wyatt Odom said from the flag’s perspective. “Never let our enemies tear me down from my lofty position. Keep alight the fires of patriotism, strive earnestly for the spirit of democracy, and keep me always as a symbol of freedom, liberty, and peace in our country.”

Members of the local girls' scout troop prepare to retire one of the 30 American flags on Friday [Photo by Austyn Szempruch]
Members of the local girls’ scout troop prepare to retire one of the 30 American flags on Friday [Photo by Austyn Szempruch]
Wyatt Oden gives veterans the grommets that were removed from the American flags on Friday [Photo by Austyn Szempruch]

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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