Retiring the Star-Spangled Banner: Proper American Flag Disposal

May 6, 2024

The American Flag is one of the most recognized symbols of unity, patriotism and freedom for the United States. Because of the values these iconic stars and stripes represent, protecting, displaying and proper disposal of the American Flag comes with a list of rules and regulations to uphold its tradition. In fact, Congress amended the United States Flag Code in 1976 to reinforce that the flag is considered a living entity and has all the same rights, including the right to exist and expire with dignity.

From proper folding to regulations on flying, the flag deserves to be treated with reverence throughout its lifespan, including its retirement. Simply throwing an American Flag in the garbage is considered a sign of disrespect. When a flag becomes torn, faded, damaged or worn out, proper disposal requires retiring it with honor.

Proper American Flag Disposal

The Flag Code states that, “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.” The proper methods of retiring the flag include:

  1. Burning: The preferred method for disposing of a worn American Flag is by burning in a ceremonial manner. A flag burning ceremony is typically done by a Veterans’ organization, American Legion Post, or other patriotic association, ensuring the flag is retired with the respect it deserves. A flag burning ceremony begins by folding the flag in its traditional manner. It is then respectfully placed into a fire large enough to completely burn the flag, ensuring it does not touch the ground in the process. Once the flag begins to burn, salute the flag, say the Pledge of Allegiance and observe a moment of silence. After the flag is completely burned, the ashes are respectfully buried. 
  2. Burying: Another acceptable form of disposal for an American Flag is burial. Similar to a flag burning ceremony, burial of a flag should be done in a respectful and dignified manner. The flag should be placed in a wooden box and then buried to ensure it is not discarded or disrespected. 
  3. Drop-Off Location: An alternative option is to bring your worn or unused flag to a dedicated drop-off location for respectful disposal or recycling. These organizations include American Legions, Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, police or fire stations, Boy and Girl Scout troops, as well as local, state and county government offices. Textile recycling companies, like the Salvation Army, will also accept American flag donations to repurpose the cloth. 

Donating an American Flag

If you have a flag in usable condition, you can also consider donating your flag to a charitable organization. Organizations that accept flag donations included mortuaries and funeral homes, schools, churches, Boys and Girls Scout Troops, and local Veteran organizations. Before donating, be sure your flag is clean, free of tears or damage and in a suitable condition for display.

Another option is to mail your flag to Stars for Our Troops, an organization of volunteers who give retired flags a new purpose. These patriotic volunteers cut out the embroidered stars and mail them to active military, veterans and first responders to show appreciation.

Whether you are retiring a flag or donating, the American Flag must be treated with the utmost respect. These actions reinforce and honor the values that the flag represents for the citizens of the United States, especially for those in the Armed Forces and our Veterans. Upholding the flag’s traditions ensures it will continue to be a symbol of pride and unity for generations that follow.

American Flag Donation at Coastal Funeral Center

At Coastal Funeral Center, we are honored to serve our military families. We care deeply about following proper protocol as we pay our respects. Our goal is to ensure our loved ones receive the utmost respect in their final journey. We ensure that families receive the support they need during their time of loss.

If you have a worn or unused flag, consider donating it to Coastal Funeral Center. We will be sure to properly dispose of or donate to a Veteran in need. We believe that everyone who served in the military deserves a respectful farewell that reflects their service to our nation.

If you have questions or want to learn more about proper flag disposal or donation, contact our team at 310-326-6343. At Coastal Funeral Center, we remain committed to being guardians of family and our South Bay community.

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About Coastal Funeral Center

At Coastal Funeral Center, we are committed to being dedicated guardians of family and community, while holding on to the legacy we established as a family-owned funeral home. Originally A.M Gamby Funeral Home, Coastal Funeral Center joined Green Hills in 2018 to better serve the South Bay community. During this transition, we expanded our services as an all-inclusive facility and built on the successes of Green Hills. We’re proud of our legacy of personal service and our deep roots in the community. We’ve been part of this community for more than 80 years. We provide customized funeral service options that meet your financial needs and honor your loved one. To learn more, visit https://coastalfuneralcenter.com.

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