American Legion Post 321 and the Boy Scouts of America Troop 461 partnered Wednesday evening to observe the 12th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Legion members and scouts also teamed up to conduct a formal flag-retirement ceremony.
Special guests attending the ceremonies were Midway Mayor Dr. Clemontine Washington, Midway City Councilman Leverne Clancy Jr. and Brooke Childers, field representative for Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga. First responders and members of the community also were present.
Post 321 Commander Dennis Fitzgerald began the event by welcoming guests and first responders. He then commanded the color guard to post the colors. Post 321’s finance officer, Jeffery Bowen, and Sergeant at Arms Herbert Reed followed scouts Josh Glandon, Connor Jones and Ethan Schmeltzer as they marched forward with an American flag.
After the flag was posted, Reed led everyone in a salute and recitation the Pledge of Allegiance. Legion Chaplain Jason Childers offered the invocation.
“Just as some of us, when we were growing up, learned why it was important to remember Pearl Harbor Day on Dec. 7, 1941, it’s important that today’s youths learn why they need to remember the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001,” Fitzgerald said. “Those who were living when Pearl Harbor was attacked, when President (John) Kennedy was shot and when the World Trade Center was attacked need to tell the next generation what they were doing on that day, so Americans will always remember.”
Failing to teach each generation why certain dates and events are important to this country’s history just increases the risk that the same thing will happen again, he said.
The commemoration ceremony concluded, but one event flowed directly into the next. Fitzgerald asked the sergeant at arms if he had any worn or soiled American flags that needed to be retired. Reed’s affirmative response led to a command to have the flags inspected by the senior and junior vice commanders, Alvin Schmitt and Darryl Woodard, respectively. When it was confirmed the flags qualified for retirement, the ceremony moved to a large burning barrel near the old Midway church.
Jeff Allmond, Boy Scout unit commissioner for the Atlantic District, assisted Bowen in prepping the flags for burning. Full-size flags were unfolded then draped over a metal pole. The flags were drenched in lighter fluid and placed over the open fire to burn completely. The remaining flags all were small, like those placed on veterans’ graves. In fact, Bowen said, the 20 or more flags they were retiring
came from just two graveyards in Midway.
“A lot of people don’t know it, but there are over 750 veterans’ graves here in Midway, Riceboro and the surrounding area,” Fitzgerald said. “These smaller flags you see here marked the graves of veterans going back to the American Revolution.”
He said when the flags all were burned, the ashes would be collected and placed in a container. That container then would be buried next to a veteran’s grave, he said. He told guests that whenever they see an American flag that’s torn, worn or soiled, they should contact the American Legion. The flag will be replaced with a new one, and the old flag will be properly retired.