In the early evening of Flag Day last Thursday, members of Adolph Block VFW Post 1305 of Mineola gathered at Wilson Park for a formal disposal of American flags to be taken out of service.
The VFW post has been conducting the same ceremony for the past 15 years to properly dispose of flags worn and tattered from service by burning them. Approximately 150 flags that had been dropped off at a bin in Mineola Village Hall over the past year were disposed of in the annual ceremony.
“It’s the purest way of doing it,” said Manny Grilo, commander of VFW Post 1305.
They should be destroyed by military personnel or veterans, he said, adding that it is never proper to simply discard an American flag by putting it in the garbage.
“It’s the symbol of our country,” Grilo said. “When you desecrate the flag, you’re desecrating all it stands for.”
Grilo said the VFW has been lobbying Congress to enact federal legislation prohibiting any form of flag desecration - including burning the flag in protest as was done in anti-war protests during the Vietnam War. He said currently only state laws prohibit destroying the American flag
Typically, the flags destroyed last Thursday were flags that had been displayed in public places and suffered from weather exposure. Grilo said if they can be cleaned, the VFW does so and keeps flags on hand for residents who would like one.
In the ceremony at Wilson Park, the flags were formally presented to Grilo, who said, “I recommend they be honorably retired from public service.”
Felice Delape, chaplain of VFW Post 1305, then read an invocation.
Following the invocation, Grilo, assisted by other VFW members, began burning the flags to be disposed in a metal drum with members of the Mineola Fire Department standing by.
Commenting on flag etiquette, Grilo said flags that are kept on display in public places or outside residences at night should be illuminated. Otherwise, flag etiquette dictates that the colors be struck at sunset.
He also said that when flags are displayed hanging vertically, the stars should appear on the left hand side of the flag. Hanging a flag upside down in any other manner is a universal distress signal, he said.