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VFW retires flags at birthday celebration

Lake City-based Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5080 held a flag retirement ceremony Saturday to commemorate the national organization’s 111th birthday. During the ceremony, VFW members and Boy Scouts from Troop 919 folded old and tattered flags and placed them into a fire, in accordance with official flag retirement protocols. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)

Lake City-based Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5080 held a flag retirement ceremony Saturday to commemorate the national organization’s 111th birthday. During the ceremony, VFW members and Boy Scouts from Troop 919 folded old and tattered flags and placed them into a fire, in accordance with official flag retirement protocols. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)

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Sheila Calnan, right, senior vice-commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5080, retires an American Flag in honor of fallen Army Pfc. Robert Adrian Worthington Saturday by placing it into a fire pit. Worthington was killed in combat in May 2007. His mother, Rhonda Worthington, looks on. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)

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Old flags are stacked up to be retired at a ceremony commemorating the 111th birthday of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Saturday in Lake City. After they were folded, the flags were inspected by the commander of VFW Post 5080 and newer flags found to still be in good condition were separated from the stacks so they could be saved. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)

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Boy Scouts of America Troop 919 member Derek Garcia, left, works with Assistant Scoutmaster George Kempson to fold a flag for a retirement ceremony at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5080 in Lake City Saturday. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)

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Boy Scouts of America Troop 919 member Tavian Spates leans in to place an American flag in a fire pit during a flag retirement ceremony held Saturday at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5080 in Lake City. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)

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Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5080 Commander John Bogardus explains the organization’s history during a birthday celebration held Saturday in Lake City. The post retired old American flags as part of the celebration. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)

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Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5080 Commander John Bogardus and Ladies Auxiliary President Cindy Arndt use a ceremonial sword to cut a birthday cake commemorating the 111th anniversary of the VFW’s founding Saturday. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)

LAKE CITY — Military veterans lined up with Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to salute the American flag one last time Saturday.

They formed two lines to become an honor guard that saw the flags off into retirement at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5080 in Lake City. Each tattered old flag had been folded into tight triangles. Two VFW members brought a pair of flags forward to be retired first in honor of a fallen soldier and two deceased veterans.

Those flags were placed in a fire pit to be retired by burning, and as the flames engulfed them, the scouts and other veterans each picked up a folded flag and brought it forward for inspection before it could be retired as well.

The ceremony was meticulous so it could be in compliance with federal protocols.

“The U.S. Flag Code states, ‘The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning,’” said Post 5080 Commander John Bogardus.

The flag retirement ceremony was held to commemorate the 111th founding of the VFW. The official anniversary was Sunday, but Bogardus said Saturday worked better with everyone’s schedule.

Flags were retired first in honor of Army Pfc. Robert Adrian Worthington, who died in combat in May 2007, and George and Delbert Shomaker, the father and brother of Ladies Auxiliary President Cindy Arndt. Worthington’s family was recognized earlier in the day, during a Gold Star Mothers ceremony organized by the auxiliary.

Although the organization is only 111, Bogardus said its origins date to 1899, when a group of Spanish-American War veterans formed an organization designed to let veterans come together and support one another. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that the group morphed into the VFW.

Arndt said the 100th anniversary of the auxiliary’s founding was Sept. 22 so the Lake City post and its auxiliary decided to celebrate the anniversaries together. She and Bogardus used a ceremonial sword to cut birthday cakes for both organizations before the flag retirement ceremony took place.

There are 499 veterans who are members of Post 5080 and there are 203 women in its Ladies Auxiliary.

It has been several years since the post did a flag retirement ceremony, but Bogardus said the post hopes to begin doing them once a quarter. As he began the ceremony, he reminded attendees that the flag was a national symbol and it should be viewed as a reminder of what other people have given up in the name of patriotism.

“These flags have served as a constant reminder to all of us that we live in a country where our freedom has been deeply purchased by blood, sweat and ultimate sacrifice,” Bogardus told attendees during the retirement ceremony. “We must not forsake what those in service of these flags and their families have forfeited.”