Since our country was conceived, the U.S. Flag has been a symbol of our country's freedom. Our country's Flag Code provides specific guidelines for how to "retire" a damaged or worn-out American flag.
When should my American flag be retired?
The US Flag Code (4 USC Sec 8 Para (k) Amended 7 July 1976) dictates that a flag should be destroyed "when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem of display". This includes the flag becoming tattered or overly worn or sun-bleached.
How do I dispose of my American flag?
The same section of our Flag Code states that the flag "should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning". When I was first researching how to properly dispose of my U.S. flag, I was surprised to find that the proper method is to burn the flag. Burning the flag just seemed wrong -- but apparently this is how it is done. This short guide will show you how to perform a flag retirement ceremony properly.
What if I can't burn my American Flag?
Burning the flag is the only preferred method of flag disposal per the U.S. flag code. However, if you live in an area where you cannot perform the burning ceremony, there are still many other accepted options for respectfully retiring your flag:
- Contact your local VFW Post and they can perform the flag ceremony for you.
- Bury and/or shred the flag: use a pair of scissors to carefully and methodically separate the thirteen stripes and leave the blue star-spangled section intact. Then, place in a wooden box and bury the flag, giving it a short "funeral" ceremony (e.g. recite the Pledge of Allegiance or other respectful words).