Retiring flags

Saturday, June 15, 2002

As Girl Scouts gathered around the campfire Friday afternoon, the laughter and songs that echoed through Camp Sacagawea during cooking classes and geology classes earlier in the week were nowhere to be found.

In their place was a somber silence as the Scouts stepped up to the fire one by one to participate in a flag retiring ceremony in honor of Flag Day.

Toni Moll, director of the Cape Area Girl Scout Day Camp, said the idea came about when the camp counselors were searching for a camp closing ceremony. Because the camp happened to end on Flag Day, the flag retiring ceremony seemed appropriate.

The idea snowballed, Moll said, when a counselor who works at Sunny Hill Gardens and Florist wanted to help collect flags at Sunny Hill to retire at the ceremony. More than 200 flags were retired on Friday, Moll said, with around 135 coming from the Thursday collection at Sunny Hill.

"There's nothing sadder than seeing a torn and tattered flag," Moll said.

About 135 Girl Scouts from the Otahki Council took part in the event, with 50 parents and counselors in attendance.

The ceremony started with the Girl Scouts surrounding the camp's main flag pole in their ceremonial horseshoe pattern, as the nine-member color guard took down the camp flag to be retired. The horseshoe pattern is common to all Girl Scout flag ceremonies.

Shirley Stevens, membership services director for the Otahki Council, was impressed with the patience and respect the girls showed during the event.

"I think it's a good experience for the girls," she said.

During the weeklong day camp, the girls were taught the significance of the different parts of the flag and how to perform the Girl Scouts' ceremony for retiring a worn flag.

The ceremony consists of cutting off the stripes of the flag and placing them in the fire as their corresponding state is called. After the 13 states are called, the field of blue and stars is placed in the fire.

"We try to instill in the girls that the flag is something to be respected," Moll said.

Moll said that it is important that the girls see the flag as something to be proud of, as a symbol of America.

"So when they say the pledge they take it to heart, not just recite it because they're supposed to," she said.

Of course, an important part of the ceremony was to teach the girls the proper way to dispose of a worn flag.

First time

Girl Scouts like Kassy Hess,12, were participating in the ceremony for the first time.

"I never really knew how to properly dispose of the flag, so now I know," Hess said. "And I learned that it is important to have respect for our country, and I hope the other Girl Scouts learned that."

Cara McElmurry, 13, said she gained a new respect for the country by seeing the flag properly disposed.

"It really represents our country, and I see that more now," McElmurry said.

335-6611, extension 226

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