Flag retirement ceremony held in Fort Monroe on Memorial Day

WAVY/Marielena Balouris

FORT MONROE, Va. (WAVY) — This Memorial Day, a group gathered in Hampton to remember the fallen in a different way — by learning how to retire American flags.

It was organized by multiple Boy Scout troops and the National Park Service.  This was the second year of the flag retirement event in Fort Monroe. And this year, more than 300 flags were retired.

“It’s an emotional thing,” said James Kotrch, who helped organize the event. “Being in combat before, I take pride in what I do and I think teaching the kids how to retire the flag and be respectful, that’s what we’re all about in the scouting program.”

Retiring the flag is a very specific process. And today, boys scouts and veterans worked together to cut the flag and then burn it.

“You got to cut the blue field out, carefully,” said Eagle Scout Benjamin Markiewicz. “You got to cut the stripes with the red and the white and sort them by color. The blue field is only supposed to be put in the fire by veterans.”

The boy scouts say that is their traditional way of retiring a flag once it’s become too worn or tattered to be displayed.

A crowd gathered at Monday’s service was given a chance to honor those who have served, including a veteran of WWII and the Korean War.

Anthony Grant said, “We fought together, we played together, we were all united as one unit.  As I threw the flag into the fire, it brought to mind the final moments with my friends overseas.”

The ceremony began with a memorial to those who served and died in the line of duty.

After the memorial, the boy scouts showed the crowd how to properly retire a flag.