That was the theme Saturday when Anaheim military veterans, firefighters and explorers held, for the first time, a flag retirement ceremony at the North Net Training Facility.
For years, veterans who live in the city have worked on their own to collect and properly dispose of worn U.S. flags by holding a brief ceremony, incinerating the flags and dispersing the ashes — the manner in which old U.S. flags are supposed to be dealt with.
After the City of Anaheim set up collection boxes for used flags at six city libraries, the volume of worn flags increased dramatically — prompting vets to reach out to Anaheim Fire & Rescue to work together to properly dispose of the flags, said Gary Mason, commander of Anaheim Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3173.
Mason, a 70-year-old Vietnam War veteran who served in the Army and Air Force, and Robert Nelson, the son of a veteran, reached out to AF&R officials, who helped arrange the ceremony at 2 p.m. on July 25.
For about an hour, an estimated 430 flags were burned.
Attendees recited the Pledge of Allegiance and quietly watched the stacks of Stars and Stripes as they were reduced to ashes.
Members of a fire company from Station 3 and explorers participated in the ceremony, as did Anaheim Fire & Rescue Chief Randy Bruegman.
“It was a great opportunity for the young explorers to join these veterans in showing respect to our nation by disposing of these flags in a dignified manner,” AF&R Battalion Chief Jeff Thomas said.
Mason said the ceremony might become a twice-annual or quarterly event at North Net, depending on the volume of flags dropped off at collection sites.
“For our first attempt, it was excellent,” Mason said.