Community groups gather together for Santee’s first flag retirement ceremony

Photos by B.J. Coleman. Santee American Legion Post 364 Commander Robyn Nolin presides at the podium as other Post 364 Legionnaires prepared to receive unserviceable flags from troop members of the Magnolia Trails Girl Scouts. The worn and faded flags, folded into proper triangles, were respectfully handled and burned honorably within a small kiln.

Santee community service organization representatives gathered on Saturday, June 15, for the area’s first flag retirement ceremony.

The morning event was hosted at the Santee Historical Society and Museum. Newly installed American Legion Post 364 Commander Robyn Nolin led a small group of other Legionnaire post officers, as they prepared to receive unserviceable flags carried by troop members of the Magnolia Trails Girl Scouts.

As befitting the ceremony’s location, speakers during the hour-long event emphasized the history of Flag Day, celebrated the day before, as well as The American Legion’s resolutions throughout the years, supporting honorable retirement of worn-out and faded U.S. flags. Alan Thompson, president of the Santee Historical Society, welcomed attendees, including California Assemblyman Randy Voepel. Thompson noted that Friday was the 242nd anniversary of Flag Day.

Nolin delivered remarks on The American Legion’s sponsorship of rites honorably retiring flags, as part of the Legion’s pillar program of Americanism. The Flag Code, detailing proper display and handling of U.S. flags, dates back to 1923, Nolin informed audience members.

“This was intended to create enhanced respect for the flag,” Nolin said.

Junior Past Post 364 Commander Gary Henriksen and Post 364 Chaplain Thomas Forsythe manned the table where Girl Scouts placed the folded banners that were to be retired. Past Post 364 Commander Gene Michonski took each flag in turn and gently put the folded triangle into a small kiln, where a fire waited to respectfully burn the flag.

Voepel offered a brief historical comment.

“Before the technology on the battlefield today, the flag was the gathering point for soldiers,” Voepel said. “That’s where the phrase ‘rally to the flag’ comes from. And this ceremony further pays homage and respect for those who gave their lives defending the flag and our freedoms.”

Nolin concluded the ceremony by thanking volunteers and event goers, noting that plans are underway to hold this event each year, in furtherance of assisting the Santee Historical Society and Museum to stay within the group’s current facility at 9200 N. Magnolia Avenue.

Unserviceable flags may be dropped off at Santee’s co-located VFW and Legion Post quarters, at local libraries in designated boxes, and at Assemblyman Voepel’s office. Local veteran Dan Coon, a building and engineering contractor by trade, presented Nolin with a small Snoopy cottage that will house unserviceable flags delivered into care and keeping at the Santee post until their retirement.