Print Burning retires Fort Verde flags
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Saturday, 19 November 2011 00:00

There was a flag burning in Camp Verde over the weekend.

But unlike the act which has polarized segments of the nation in the past, this flag burning was carried out with the utmost respect for the red, white and blue, along with the nation it stands for and the men and women who have fought to protect it.

Fort Verde State Historic PARK ranger Shane Ray, center, and historical re-enactors place retired American flags into the fire for respectful destruction during a ceremony Saturday, Nov. 12. The annual flag retirement happens every year at the fort near Veterans Day.A handful of residents from around the area gathered in the crisp morning air on the parade grounds of Fort Verde State Historic Park on Saturday, Nov. 12, to join the American Legion in a special ceremony to dispose of American flags that are no longer fit for display.

It’s a ceremony that American Legion Posts around the country have been practicing since it was adopted by the national organization in 1937.

This past weekend, the honors were overseen by the American Legion Post 135 out of Cornville, which agreed to hold the ceremony here in Camp Verde as other groups were committed to other Veterans Day weekend activities.

Other participants included state park employees, Keith Tucker with the local American Legion Post 93 and some residents who had dressed in period clothing appropriate to the fort’s place in history.

The ceremony has been held at Fort Verde for at least the last five years.

Soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines have all served under the flag at one point or another in the nation’s history, and to many, the flag represents far more than a simple piece of colored fabric.

Park Manager Sheila Stubler pointed that out as she welcomed those in attendance.

“We’re honoring and paying respect to those veterans that have served and those that continue to fight to protect our freedoms,” Stubler said.

The park manager went on to relate something she had read before the ceremony.

“It is not the wind that makes the flag fly but the breath of every soldier that has fought and died for it,” Stubler said.

The ceremony is scripted, with members of the Legion presenting the flags to officers for inspection before carefully placing them into the fire pits.

Even though it is scripted and has been repeated countless times over most of the last century, there is no denying the seriousness and respect the participants ascribe to this ritual.

David Perriman, a Village of Oak Creek resident, said he’s come to the ceremony every year.

Dressed in period civilian clothing, Perriman also has a powerful connection to the stars and stripes.

He served in the Merchant Marine in the Pacific during World War II.

“It’s a way to get rid of the flags with a ceremony, not just put them in the trash,” Perriman said.

Perriman said that times change and ceremonies like this one are important to help teach people about what the flag truly means to those who dedicated themselves to it.

Sherie Mercier, an Army veteran and commander of the Cornville post, presided over the event.

“Comrades, we have presented here these flags of our country which have been inspected and condemned as unserviceable. They have reached their present state in a proper service of tribute, memory and love,” Mercier said. “A flag may be a flimsy bit of printed gauze, or a beautiful banner of finest silk. Its intrinsic value may be trifling or great; but its real value is beyond price, for it is a precious symbol of all that we and our comrades have worked for and lived for and died for — a free nation of free men, true to the faith of the past, devoted to the ideals and practice of justice, freedom and democracy.”