How To Get Rid Of Worn Out American Flag

How To Get Rid Of Worn Out American Flag

Honoring the Stars and Stripes: A Comprehensive Guide to Respectfully Retiring Worn-Out American Flags

The American flag, a symbol of national pride and unity, deserves the utmost respect even when it has reached the end of its lifespan. Retiring worn-out flags properly ensures they are treated with the dignity they represent. This guide will provide a comprehensive overview of the proper methods for disposing of old flags, answering common questions and offering resources to assist in this solemn act.

The Importance of Respectful Retirement

The American flag embodies the ideals of freedom, democracy, and sacrifice. As such, it should be treated with the utmost respect throughout its life and in its retirement. Disposing of flags improperly, such as by burning or throwing them away, shows disrespect to the nation and its symbols.

The proper disposal of American flags is a matter of both patriotism and legal obligation. The United States Flag Code, a set of federal laws governing the display and use of the flag, outlines the appropriate methods for retiring flags that have become worn or faded.

Methods of Retirement

There are several acceptable methods for retiring a worn-out American flag, each with its own advantages and procedures.

1. Local American Legion or VFW Post:

Many American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) posts offer flag retirement services. These organizations have experience and expertise in handling and disposing of flags respectfully. They may have designated drop-off locations or conduct scheduled flag retirement ceremonies.

2. Municipal Flag Collection Programs:

Some municipalities and counties have established flag collection programs. These programs typically involve placing collection boxes at designated locations where residents can drop off their worn-out flags. The flags are then collected by municipal staff and retired appropriately.

3. Flag Retirement by Fire:

In certain circumstances, flags may be retired by burning them. However, this method should only be used as a last resort and with great care. The following guidelines must be strictly adhered to:

  • The flag should be burned in a dignified and respectful manner.
  • The flag should be completely consumed by the fire.
  • The ashes should be buried or scattered respectfully.

4. Contacting the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts:

The Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of the USA have long traditions of honoring the American flag and properly retiring worn-out ones. Members of these organizations may be willing to assist in flag retirement ceremonies or collect flags for proper disposal.

Procedures for Retirement

Regardless of the method chosen, it is important to follow the proper procedures for flag retirement:

  • Fold the flag according to the traditional triangular fold.
  • Handle the flag with care and respect.
  • Avoid any actions that could damage or desecrate the flag.


Q: What is the proper way to fold an American flag?

A: The traditional method of folding an American flag is known as the "triangular fold." Instructions and videos are widely available online.

Q: Can I bury a worn-out flag?

A: Yes, you can bury a worn-out flag. The ashes of a burned flag can also be buried.

Q: Can I throw away a worn-out flag?

A: No, you should never throw away a worn-out American flag. Disposing of a flag in the trash is considered disrespectful and a violation of the Flag Code.

Q: What happens to retired flags?

A: Retired flags are typically disposed of in a dignified and respectful manner. They may be burned, buried, or donated to museums or historical societies.

Q: Is it illegal to burn an American flag?

A: No, it is not illegal to burn an American flag. However, burning a flag is considered disrespectful and is generally discouraged. Proper flag disposal methods should be used whenever possible.


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