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Flag Retirement Ceremony in Scottsboro

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Burning the American flag is considered a sign of disrespect and desecration, but the proper way to dispose of Old Glory is with fire.

The United States 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."

Saturday morning, scouts and members of the Scottsboro Veterans of Foreign Wars retired nearly 600 tattered, torn, worn, and faded flags in a ceremony at the Jackson County Fairgrounds.

"16 years ago I had a boy a scout troop, I was scout master, and the boys didn't understand patriotism about the flag," coordinator Gordon Hodges said.

He contacted the VFW about having a ceremony, and the annual tradition began.

Hodges taught the scouts about its importance, and what the stars and stripes represent.

Vietnam Veteran Bernie Arnold said it means a lot to see the local boy scouts and girl scouts participate in such a ceremony.

 "This is a great patriotic day, to be able to properly dispose of flags that have worn and tattered and seen their day," he said.

Hodges' son, Matthew, was in the scout troop the first year.

Now president of the Scottsboro City Council, Matthew Hodges has participated in all 14 ceremonies.

Last year's was canceled after the April 27 tornadoes.

"This is what our country is fighting for and it's a representation of who we are as a people, so it's important that we remember that and have a deep respect whenever it's time for those flags to be retired and bring in new ones in their place," Matthew Hodges said.

The scouts enjoyed the fire in the middle of the fairgrounds.

"It's pretty cool to me," fifth grader Ragan Myers said.

"I want the flags to be burned up so people can go remember."

The Scottsboro VFW and Stevenson VFW collect the flags during the year, and usually have about 200.

Since this held two years' worth, they had 585.

Each was properly folded before it was carried for presentation, unfurled with care so as not to let it touch the ground, and placed on a metal rod to hang before being lit.

The Scottsboro Fire Department was on hand in case of emergency, but the fire remained under control and all participants were safe.