NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - American Legion Post 433 in New Providence was alight on Monday night. Literally.
The Post held the 11th Annual Flag Retirement Ceremony at The American Legion Hall on Elkwood Avenue in New Providence on Flag Day, June 14th. Well over 2,000 flags were retired on Monday evening, according to Second Vice Commander Tom Fry, who, along with Marine and Sergeant-at-Arms Mike Lombardo, torched the flags during the Ceremony. The flags that were retired were worn, tattered, stained or otherwise unusable, and had been donated by area residents who placed them in the American Legion's flag box located at Legion Hall.
The Ceremony began with the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance, followed by welcoming remarks by Commander Joseph A. Clarizio. An elaborate demonstration then took place in which Lombardo, Fry, Gerald Gross and Max Sidoli, III, folded an unserviceable flag and presented it to the Vice Commanders and Post Commander who then determined that the flag was indeed unserviceable and therefore could be retired. The folded flag was placed atop the pile of other unserviceable flags in the center of the American Legion lot, and as veterans and residents of New Providence looked on, Lombardo and Fry methodically lit the tower of flags on fire as the Honor Guard, composed of the Post 433 Rifle Squad and the New Providence Police Honor Guard, gave a gun salute and Taps was played by students from New Providence High School. The flags slowly smoldered and the fire grew until the flags were engulfed in flames. According to Lombardo, it would take until 11 p.m. or later for the flags to fully burn.
"We don't celebrate Flag Day to commemorate anything any of the branches of the service have done. The Ceremony's purpose is to celebrate the flag and the importance it serves for our country," said 1st Vice Commander Paul E. Dormont.
Post Commander Joseph A. Clarizio, said, "We are here today to retire these flags with honor and dignity…flags that are stained, faded, tattered. This Ceremony is the way that a flag can be retired appropriately."
Participants in the event, in addition to members of the American Legion and VFW, included, among others, New Providence Police Chief Anthony Buccelli and New Providence Mayor John Thoms. Buccelli told The Alternative Press, "It's great to support all of our veterans who served our country and dedicated a time in their lives for us to all enjoy the freedoms we have as Americans, freedoms that are symbolized by the American flag." Mayor Thoms added, "This was a very moving event. Each year, it celebrates our most precious gift - our freedom."
Sergeant-at-Arms Mike Lombardo said that he would like to see more kids involved with the event and that it would be good if Flag Day and its importance was a teaching experience in the schools. "This is a great event to attend…I wish more people knew about it," he said.