Located on the sidewalk outside the Escalon American Legion Post rooms on Second Street, the official receptacle for ‘retired U.S. flags’ has to be emptied on a regular basis.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Legion officials noted, as residents are using the post office-style box to put their torn, tattered and faded flags in to make sure they are retired properly.
Post Adjutant Vince Giovaniello and Chaplain Casey Den Ouden most recently emptied the collection box on Saturday, Jan. 12, finding it full when they opened it up.
“Sometimes there are some in there that are still in good shape, maybe they just need to be washed,” Giovaniello noted. “In that case, we do that and I’ll give it to somebody that needs a flag.”
Once they have collected a sufficient amount of flags that need to be retired, they are taken to the home of a Post member. There, they are placed in concrete containers and there is a specific ceremony that is followed, with the flags then being burned in accordance with official disposal policy.
“We call it a retirement ceremony,” Den Ouden offered.
There is a spoken portion for the retirement, as well as the burning.
“I have eight tubs and when we get them all filled, we do it,” Giovaniello explained. “We have at least one a year, often we might have to have two ceremonies a year.”
The collection box was installed a few years ago and is at the 1531 Second St., Escalon home of the Gustafson-Thompson Post 263 headquarters.
Because it looks very similar to a postal box, both Legion members said they have taken mail out of it and delivered it to the nearby post office just around the corner on Coley Avenue, as an occasional letter finds its way in to the box along with the flags.
Den Ouden said they usually have at least half a dozen members on hand for the retirement ceremony, as they do one flag at a time. But, he said, they have a good system and it always runs smoothly.
Giovaniello added that the collection box was put in about three years ago and they have retired dozens of flags over that time period.