More than 30 people turned out Sunday to retire American flags long past their glory. For nearly a decade, members of VFW Post 1841 and American Legion Post 240 have held an annual Flag Retirement Ceremony, normally in May. This year the proper flag disposal was postponed to Sept. 27, because of COVID-19. Jerry Jacobsen, VFW Post Commander, said an estimated 50 flags were donated to be retired. Retiring a flag is a delicate ceremony that entails burning the flag. Jacobsen explained burning the flag during a Retirement Ceremony is not disrespecting Old Glory. Burning or cremation of the flag has long been considered a dignified way of paying respect to the deceased and to objects worthy of veneration, he told an audience mostly of veterans and their spouses and grandchildren. Burning has been applied to flag retirement to offer the most reverent method of final tribute.
During a brief speech before the Retirement Ceremony, Jacobsen gave the audience a brief history of the 50-star flag. A high schooler in Ohio named Robert G. Heft designed the 50-star flag as a class assignment. He chose to model his design on the previously used 48-star flag, but to arrange the 50 stars on a blue background in rows – five rows of six and four rows of five. He explained the tri-colors – red, white and blue – respectively, represented courage, purity and justice.
Sadly, Heft received a B- as the grade for the flag. Reportedly, his teacher said the design lacked originality. However, the story goes, Heft’s teacher did offer to bump up the grade if the student could get the flag accepted as the United States’ national flag. Heft sent his flag to his Ohio congressman, who submitted it to the U.S. Flag Selection Committee. His design was adopted as the new United States flag on July 4, 1960.
In 1959, when Alaska and Hawaii were being considered for statehood, more than 1,500 submissions were sent to the White House.
“Although some of them were 49-star versions, the vast majority were 50-star proposals. At least three, and probably more, of these designs were identical to the present design of the 50-star flag,” reads a website dedicated to flags.
Since its adoption, Heft’s original flag has flown over the White House, every state capital building, and 88 United States embassies. Heft’s design was the 27th official flag of the United States.
THE VFW and American Legion have a drop off box in front of their Post for those wanting to properly retire the flag. It’s a red, white and blue box built by Noah Bowen of Troop 333 in Fincastle as his Eagle project. The Post is located at 4902 Roanoke Road in Daleville.