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Paying respect

Flags will burn Thursday on Barker's Island. This is no protest. Instead, it is a badge of respect. Members of the Richard I. Bong American Legion Post 435 will gather with veterans from the Thomas F. Stein VFW Post 1091, local firefighters and p...

Flags will burn Thursday on Barker's Island.

This is no protest.

Instead, it is a badge of respect.

Members of the Richard I. Bong American Legion Post 435 will gather with veterans from the Thomas F. Stein VFW Post 1091, local firefighters and police officers to hold a public flag burning ceremony.

It will be the first event of its kind in Superior.

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"Being flag day, it could not be more appropriate," said Dan Knight, adjutant with the American Legion.

The purpose of the event, he said, is "to teach the community respect for unserviceable flags and to destroy them properly."

Many people don't realize there is an approved way of retiring American flags "instead of throwing them in the garbage," said Jerry TaBelle, an American Legion member.

Flag disposal has been an integral part of the American Legion flag code since 1937, Knight said.

The event takes place at 6:30 p.m. Thursday near the band shell on the northern end of island. Everyone is invited.

Today, veterans held a walk through of the ceremony.

American Legion Commander Harvey Anderson lined members up and marched them down past the bronze mariner statue. He sent veterans to the right and left for a box formation.

The flags will be inspected, Anderson said, then placed in a 55-gallon barrel for burning. Firefighters will control the burn while "Call to Colors" plays on the bugle. Then they will be dismissed.

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At Anderson's cue, the color guard filed back to the parking lot followed by other participants. Then they lined up for a second dry run.

"I think it's a great ceremony," said Battalion Chief James Rigstad of the Superior Fire Department. "It's real nice to have the respect."

For years, the department burned unserviceable flags behind the fire hall without ceremony. About three years ago, Rigstad said, the American Legion took over flag disposal.

Flags are currently collected through boxes at Wal-Mart and the Richard I. Bong World War II Heritage Center and brought to the Duluth steam plant for disposal. Knight said the Legion burns between 25 and 50 flags a month.

"I'm sure a lot of people have flags in their attic or someplace that they don't know what to do with," Knight said. "We're giving them an option."

Thursday's event will offer more than that; it will teach respect for the flag of our fathers.

"It needs to be retired," Knight said. "Retired with dignity."

Maria Lockwood covers public safety. E-mail mlockwood@superiortelegram.com or call (715) 395-5025.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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