A crowd of veterans, families and the general public visited Veteran's Park in Wadena for a Flag Day ceremony Monday, June 14.

The event was highlighted by historical retellings by local radio men Dan Sartell and Rick Youngbauer of the Wadena Elks Lodge. Both went into detail about what the flag means and the importance of showing it respect. Sartell specifically covered the history of the American flag, from its first appearance to its current 50 stars.

"No flag can compare to its beauty," Sartell said of the flag.

Youngbauer spoke about the attacks and wars the flag has seen. He spoke about the men and women that paid for what the flag stood for with their lives.

"The greatest significance of this flag lies in the influence it has in the hearts and minds of millions of people," Youngbauer explained.

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Youngbauer shared President Woodrow Wilson's quote, "This flag, which we honor and under which we serve, is the emblem of our unity, our power, our thought and purpose as a nation. It has no other character than that which we give it from generation to generation."

Wadena VFW Color Guard member Roger Bahls sets a tattered American flag into a fire Monday, June 14, Flag Day.
Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal
Wadena VFW Color Guard member Roger Bahls sets a tattered American flag into a fire Monday, June 14, Flag Day. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

Wadena VFW Post 3922 members and the Color Guard presented during the event, including a flag folding and flag burning demonstration. Roger Bahls instructed two youth from the area in folding the flag, while VFW Commander Phil Thoennes explained the meaning behind each of the 13 folds.

Bahls next burned three American flags, an action that in some cases would be controversial. In this case, the retired flags were shown respect through the process and burned quickly in a hot bed of coals.

"There is nothing wrong with anyone burning a flag," Bahls said following the ceremony when asked about proper disposal of an American flag. The key he said is doing it out of respect. The fire should be hot and the flag should burn quickly and completely.

According to the U.S. Flag Code, “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.” This has been the method approved by the American Legion since 1937. Simply throwing the flag in the trash is considered disrespectful, according to the United States Department of Defense. Some service groups choose to bury flags, while some choose to recycle flags of certain materials as they may be hazardous to burn.

To show added respect to the flag, the assembled crowd recited the Pledge of Allegiance and had a moment of silence. Such actions treat the American flag as a living thing.

While the flames never left the burn barrel, the group had a Wadena Fire Department truck and volunteer on hand should the fire get out of control.

If you have flags you'd like to have disposed by someone else, contact your local VFW, American Legion, Veteran Services or law enforcement on where you can drop off your flags.