NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Thursday, June 14, members of American Legion Post 433 members held an official flag retirement ceremony — something the post has been doing since 1977.
Members of Post 433, Mayor Al Morgan, Police Chief Anthony D. Buccelli, Jr, members of the New Providence Police Department, Boy Scouts and leaders from Berkeley Heights Troop 68, a Cub Scout from New Providence Pack 363, and residents participated in the solemn ceremony.
The ceremony for the “Disposal of Unserviceable Flags” itself, was first established by The American Legion at its National Convention in Sept. 1937. Since that time, posts around the world collect "retired flags" in special receptacles and, on Flag Day, June 14, members gather to perform the ritual that disposes of the damaged flags in a dignified manner.
The ritual sets up everything about how the ceremony is to be performed – from the time of day – outdoors, at night – how participants should stand and the words each officer, from the Sergeant-at-Arms to the First and Second Vice Commanders, the Commander, and Chaplin should say. The entire ceremony can be found here.
Thursday evening a crowd gathered in the front parking lot of Post 433 awaiting the ceremony. Presiding over the ceremony was Post Finance Officer Gerald Gross, assisted by Vice Commander Russell Davidson, Chaplin John McGovern, Squad Leader Charlie Cellini and Sergeant of Arms Allen Robinson.
Mayor Morgan greeted everyone and reminded the audience that New Providence has a history of patriotism, right from the start of the nation -- 40 men from New Providence fought in the Revolutionary War.
Boy Scouts from Troop 68 in Berkeley Heights, John Koubek, Michael Higgins, James Lenahan, Tim Koubek stepped up to give a lesson on how to properly fold the flag, including the meaning of each of 13 folds. Also attending were leaders Michael Koubek and Michael Higgins, along with Pack 363 member Cole Robinson. The senior Higgins played the bagpipes during and after the ceremony.
The Color Guard made up of Detective Mike Hand, Sgt. Dennis Carovillano and Detective Mike Scuorzo presented the colors and marched to a place of honor near the entrance to the parking lot.
As the ceremony proceeded, Gross read from the ritual, “A Flag may be a flimsy bit of printed gauze, or a beautiful banner of finest silk. Its intrinsic value may be trifling or great; but its real value is beyond price, for it is a precious symbol of all that we and our comrades have worked for and lived for, and died for a free Nation of free men, true to the faith of the past, devoted to the ideals and practice of Justice, Freedom and Democracy.
“Let these faded Flags of our Country be retired and destroyed with respectful and honorable rites and their places be taken by bright new Flags of the same size and kind, and let no grave of our soldier or sailor dead be unhonored and unmarked. Sergeant-at-Arms, assemble the Color Guard, escort the detail bearing the Flags and destroy these Flags by burning. The members shall stand at attention.”
Sgt. of Arms Robinson presented the flag to be retired, as required by the ceremony, then placed it on the more than 2,000 American flags on the pyre. Chaplin McGovern offered a prayer, Vice Commander Davidson lit a torch and the pyre of flags began to burn. The Color Guard fired a volley of three shots and then all was silent, except for the crackling of the fire, until the sound of a bagpipe playing TAPS filled the silence.