Home ::  Flag Etiquette  ::  Proper Flag Etiquette  :: Retiring Old Flags

Retiring Old Flags

Retirement Image

The flag retirement ceremony description is an excerpt from our Flag Facts publications designed for classroom use and personal collections.  If you are interested in purchasing copies please see the Flag Facts publication in our Shoppers Plaza. The Flag may be mended when torn and cleaned when dirty.  If mended it should not be hemmed (shortened) to the point where its measurements are no longer in proportion.

"The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem of display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning." (The United States Flag Code)

In many American communities, one or more organizations render an important community service by collecting and overseeing the proper disposal of old, worn, tattered, frayed and/or faded U.S. Flags.

For information in your community try the Boy Scouts of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, or the American Legion. If they provide a flag retirement service the flag can be dropped off and they will take care of the ceremony.

A flag retirement ceremony may also be a family activity. It provides an opportunity to teach and instruct. If retiring the flag as a family, the following steps might be considered:

1. Gather the family around. Raise the flag on the pole or staff or hold it aloft by hand.

2. Call the group to attention, salute and recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.

3. The leader might say something like, "This flag has served its nation well and long. It is now worn to a condition in which it should no longer be used to represent the nation. We pay honor to this flag for the service it has rendered."

4. Fold the flag according to procedures explained on this site. (Folding the Flag)

5. Give the flag to the group leader who will burn it until it is completely consumed.

An Alternative Retirement Process

In the pictures above, the Girl Scouts show us another method of retiring a flag. In this instance the flag is also burned.  Before burning however, it is cut apart, thus allowing it to burn completely.

Step 1:  Keep the flag off the ground and cut the stars out of the canton.

Step 2:  Cut the stripes apart.

Step 3:  With dignity, put the stripes into the fire.

Step 4:  Let the material burn completely.

Step 5:  Place the canton into the fire and let it burn completely.  

During the ceremony, there can be appropriate music or singing and comments about freedom and liberty or other topics dealing with the flag as an American symbol.