Ceremony honors damaged American flags before disposal
"On behalf of our committee and all the members of the Blackhawk Golden K Kiwanis Club, I thank all of you for joining us for the disposal of unserviceable flags," said David Soderberg, event organizer.
Before the flags were placed in the fire—two burning barrels—Golden K members shared their thoughts.
"The U.S. flag is more than just some brightly colored cloth … it is a symbol of our nation. Seven red stripes and six white stripes; together they represent the original 13 colonies that gained us liberty. The red stripes remind us of the lifeblood of brave men and women who were ready to die for the country," John Janes said.
"The white stripes remind us of purity and cleanliness of purpose, thought, word and deed. The blue is for truth and justice, like the eternal blue of the star-filled heaven. The stars represent the 50 sovereign states of our union," Don Shaffner added.
"The U.S. flag should be treated with respect when it is flying, and it should be treated with respect when it is being retired," Phil Selgren said. "Therefore, we retire flags with dignity and respect when they become worn, torn, faded or badly soiled."
The club had collected 847 U.S. flags over the past year, including 77 Soderberg found most recently in the park's drop box created by the art department at Parker High School.
That's 143 more flags than last year, he said.
The number of the flags has grown every year since Soderberg took over chairmanship of the Golden K's committee in 2007.
Soderberg attributes the increase to the drop boxes that can be found in Janesville at Kiwanis Park, the VFW Clubhouse and National Guard building and between Beloit and Janesville at the Marine Corps League.
The ceremony, he said, "makes people aware of the dignity and the honor of flying a flag and having a flag in good condition. It's horrible to see people flying damaged flags."
Soderberg was pleased with Wednesday's crowd but wished more people had attended.
"This is the proper way to retire a flag," he said, as Boy Scouts from Troop 556 and Troop 540 handed the folded flags to Kiwanis members, who placed them in the burning barrels.
As the flags were placed in the fire, Frank Douglas told those in attendance to remember this: "Old flags never die. They get fired up!"