Flags retired in dignified, patriotic service
It’s been five years since Army veteran Len Modlinski organized Ozark County’s first American Flag Retirement Ceremony. Since then, hundreds of ragged, faded and unserviceable United States flags have been ceremoniously retired in dignified, patriotic services held annually in front of Sampson Masonic Lodge in Theodosia. The 2019 ceremony was held Saturday, June 29.
Modlinski, past master of the Lodge and a member of VFW Post #5366 in Isabella, said the ceremony, which focuses on respect for the flag, is meant to be a “meaningful and memorable one – especially for the young people here today.”
Many organizations were represented at Saturday’s ceremony, including Girl Scout Troop #71227 from Gainesville, Air Force Jr. ROTC from Branson High School, VFW Post #5366 from Isabella, AMVETS Post #154 from Isabella, American Legion Post #112 from Ava, Combat Vets Motorcycle Association Chapter 4012 from Gainesville, the Ozark County Honor Guard, the Ozark County Sheriff’s Department, the Theodosia Area Volunteer Fire Department, the Ozark County Times and KY3-TV from Springfield.
Following the presentation and posting of the colors by the Air Force Jr. ROTC from Branson High School, Girl Scouts led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by the National Anthem sung by Masonic Lodge member Elmer Roberson.
Missouri State Rep. Karla Eslinger, the keynote speaker at the ceremony, said, “Think about what our flag stands for. It’s a symbol for liberty, a standard for justice, a sign of the brave and the bold and and a warning to those who might wish harm on us. But, it is also a promise of peace and prosperity, a beautiful reminder of home. . . . This flag means so much to so many people, and it ties us together - people of all races, denominations and cultures. It binds us together under one banner. Today, we recognize that, and we say thank you as we send it off with the final respect it deserves.”
Following Eslinger’s remarks, the Air Force Jr. ROTC color guard began lowering the old flag flying over the Masonic Lodge. When the flag was at half staff, the American Legion rifle squad fired a salute. The somber notes of “Taps” filled the air as the ROTC guard finished lowering and solemnly folded the old flag before presenting it to Girl Scout Alana Kimmen, who gave it to Randy Reid, Master of Sampson Lodge, who presented her with a new flag for the ROTC to raise.
A dignified end
Dozens of worn flags lay stacked on a table at the ceremony. “Displayed before you are American flags of all different sizes that have flown over our homes, churches, schools, government buildings and places of business,” said Modlinski. “They have served in parades, escorted funeral processions and have honored the final resting places of our deceased veterans. They have served our nation well and are now faded and worn to a condition where they are no longer serviceable.”
Modlinski quoted paragraph K, section 176, of the Flag Code of the United States: “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”
Girl Scout Cheyenne Wachtel, whose family has a long history of serving in the military, spoke to the crowd about what the ceremony and the flag means to her. “This is special to me because my family served all the way back to the Revolutionary War,” she said. “It makes me proud to do this in honor of them.”
Wachtel was one of many who dedicated a flag in honor of someone before the ROTC retired the colors, and the Girl Scouts began carrying the old flags, one-by-one, to Theodosia Area Volunteer Fire Department Lt. Craig Mierkowski, who gently placed each one in the flames as 91-year-old Korean War veteran Elmer Roberson sang “God Bless America.”