Government

American Flag Retirement Box Donated to Montgomery Township by POSOFA

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Grandpa has Florida. Old Glory has Montgomery Township.

After Tuesday night's supervisors meeting, Montgomery Township residents now have a place to retire worn American flags at the administration building, thanks to the donation of a flag retirement box by the Patriotic Order Sons of America Washington Camp 523 of Eagleville.

"Five years ago, our brothers at Schwneksville Camp 387 started a project there after many requests to build flag retirement boxes to provide a place where the public could properly dispose of their worn American flags," said POSOFA member Stanley Sarnocinski to supervisors Tuesday.

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He said Schwenksville Camp 387 has placed five retirement boxes in municipal buildings in Upper Montgomery County. Camp 523 in Eagleville, he said, started doing the same three years ago.

"These boxes have been very well received by the public," Sarnocinski said.

All in all, Camp 523 has placed and maintained eight flag retirement boxes at the following locations: ACE Hardware in Harleysville, Lower Salford; Lower Salford Township Administration Building; 4-H Club in Creamery; Lowe's in Oaks; The Captain's Shop at the Washington Memorial Chapel in Valley Forge Park; the American Legion Post in Wayne, PA; outside the Sheriff's Office at the Montgomery County Courthouse; and at the POSOFA state headquarters in Berks County. 

"We request permission to donate a box to Montgomery Township," Sarnocinski said. "It will be checked and emptied by POSOFA members weekly. These flags will be stored until the next flag retirement ceremony."

Such a ceremony takes place June 8 at 2 p.m. in the meadows behind Schwenksville Fire Co. Sarnocinski said Camps 523 and 387 have a ceremony with Boy Scout Troop 105 of Schwenksville to retire the flags in proper fashion.

Last year, they retired more than 3,000 flags, or about 10,000 in five years.

"If no one has ever been up to see one, you don't know what you're missing," Sarnocinski said. "We try to pick out a giant flag for the Scouts. They take the time to cut out the stripes and stars. A Scout leader is leading the program and tells you what each stripe stands for."

Groups of Scouts then approach the fire and throw the stripes and stars into it, Sarnocinski said. Before the ceremony begins, there is a flag raising, with a Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer. The ceremony takes about an hour, Sarnocinski said. The flags are burned in two giant oil barrels, halved and placed on legs.

"We have the Scouts do one flag or they'd be there forever," Sarnocinski joked.  

He said the event is taking off.

"At first, we didn't know how it would be received by the public," Sarnocinski said. "Now, every place you go, 'What do I do with my old flag?' Here's the perfect thing."

Sarnocinski said each box is meticulously crafted by member Dave McQuirns upon request.

"People are calling. They want one in Lansdale," Sarnocinski said. "The mayor wants one in Lansdale. Lower Providence Township is our township and we are trying to get one there." 

Supervisor Mike Fox said the boxes were "beautiful."

"I think it is a fine addition to the township administration building, and I think it's a fabulous idea to have respect for the flags and to have a way for them to be properly disposed of." 

Fox said there had been an instance in his life where he was looking for a local Boy Scout troop or similar organization that was collecting flags for disposal.

"I think it's a great idea," Fox said. "It's well received and it shows the township is concerned about proper disposal of flags."

Sarnocinski said that POSOFA is the oldest patriotic organization in the United States, founded Dec. 10, 1847 by Dr. Reynell Coates of Philadelphia. According to its website, the organization was organized to protect the public school system, the Constitution and the American way of life.

"Our creed is 'God, Our Country and Our Order,'" said Sarnocinski. "This year, we celebrate our 167th anniversary."

All American-born men or naturalized American men aged 16 and older are eligible to join POSOFA. There are 40 active members in the Eagleville camp. Sarnocinski said there are about 50 active members in the Schwenksville Camp 387.

"We’ve been a part of Valley Forge Park before it was a park," Sarnocinski said. He said the POSOFA national headquarters is still located in the park, known as Patriots Hall and Valley Forge Research Center.

Sarnocinski said POSOFA helped the Continental Memorial Association of Valley Forge save Gen. George Washington's headquarters for the American people. It also helped preserve the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia and helped start Washington Crossing Park.

POSOFA, Sarnocinski said, was also instrumental in getting President Harry S Truman to pass a bill in 1949 establishing Flag Day as June 14 every year. 

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