The two drums of fire spewing dark smoke weren’t a protest, but rather a show of honor for Old Glory.
“U.S. veterans, we’re very proud of our flag, and we want to make sure the etiquette of disposing of our flag is done right,” said “Benny” Benavidez with the Korean War Veterans Association.
What better way to do that, he said, than to do it themselves.
Normally the Korean War Veterans Association Imperial Valley Chapter 102 collects about 30 or 40 flags, but this year many, many more were donated to be retired, he said. They needed to double the burn capacity to handle all the extras.
The group invited students to watch as they burned the flags and buried them, the “dignified” way of disposing of flags “in such a condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display,” according to the U.S. Flag Code, the advisory rules for displaying flags. It gave the students the chance to learn about how to give fitting tribute to the nation’s flag, something the group of veterans takes seriously.
“Freedom is not free,” he said. “Thousands on thousands of veterans died in World War II and Korea, and they’re still dying.”
People should be proud and not forget their veterans, he added. That’s what he’s hoping to inspire with the students, who are our future leaders.
Many in the crowd of about 50 students held up flags while they listened to the history behind it, the importance and then pledged to it.
The flag, for Jachellyne Saucedo, 10, “show honor and respect,” she said. She has a flag at home as well, and her family puts it on the door when it’s a president’s birthday.
She liked watching the ceremony, especially when the veterans burned the flag. She knew all about how they were supposed to do it because her mom had told her.
Other students also liked watching the ceremony, such as Jose Gamez, 10. It was good, especially when they burned the flags, he said.
He was among the group that crowded along the safety line set up to watch as veteran Albert Newton lit the match and then two drums with strips of flags in them.
It makes the students remember how important the flag is, Jose said. He added that he now knows how to dispose of a flag properly.
Staff Writer Elizabeth Varin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 760-337-3441.