American Legion Post 151 Commander Ronnie Odom on Sunday recited the battles around the world where our nation’s flag had flown since the first days of the United States of America.
“Our country has been a beacon of freedom to other people from around the world,” Odom said. “We have sent men and women into harm’s way to keep that beacon light. Our flag flew proudly in 1812 when our freedom was in doubt. It was there at Fort Sumter, Gettysburg and at Appomattox. In World War I, it led doughboys as they fought across Europe. A generation later, it flew over Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima.”
As he paused between places, the sounds of cloth ripping could be heard. Volunteers and veterans were busy disassembling a large garrison flag behind him so that it could be retired and burned to ashes.
“It flew over Africa, Normandy and again led Americans across Europe,’ Odom continued. “In Korea, the flag flew from one hill to another. In Vietnam, it flew proudly while it laid burned and tattered back home. The flag was there in Beirut, Granada, Panama, Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosovo.”
It was a solemn ceremony Sunday evening across from the Old Jail Library and Museum in downtown Carthage. Panola County veterans groups and the Panola County Veteran’s Office led a flag retirement ceremony, providing a proper end for the flags as proscribed by the U.S. Flag Code.
Panola County Veterans Service Officer William Morris read aloud the proper procedure: Flags should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.
“When the national flag is worn beyond repair, burn it thoroughly and completely on a modest, but blazing fire,” Morris said. “This should be done in a simple manner with dignity and respect. Be sure the flag is reduced to ashes and unrecognizable as a former flag.”
A small fire pit had been constructed out of bricks, and flags were placed on top of the fire to burn completely. The Panola County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard stood watch over the ceremony, alongside a Carthage Fire Department engine.
Morris said he hoped Sunday’s ceremony would inspire patriotism in those who had come to participate.
“We like to brag about being red-blooded Americans and we have proven the tenacity of the American spirit in battle, but the truth is that somewhere, somehow and in some way, somebody or something has inspired patriotism within you,” he said. “The American flag is a symbol recognized all over the world, a symbol of freedom, of hope and of rescue. It is my hope that today’s ceremony will inspire patriotism and encourage us to properly care for our nation’s flag in a proper and dignified manner, as we all should.”