On 9/11, State Veterans Home holds its first flag-retirement ceremony

Each veteran was given a piece of a flag to hold during a ceremony.
Each veteran was given a piece of a flag to hold during a ceremony.

SALISBURY — On the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, residents at the N.C. State Veterans Home held their first flag retirement ceremony.

It was a way, on a sacred day, to honor the country and what it stands for, while also paying tribute to those who have served.

Veterans Home Service Officer Barry Cartner said the residents hope to make this the first of regular flag-burning ceremonies, which properly dispose of worn American flags in a respectful manner, as set out by the U.S. Flag Code.

“The guys have been asking to do something to contribute back to the community,” Cartner said, adding people are welcome to bring their flags to the N.C. State Veterans Home — Building 10 on the Hefner VA Medical Center campus — for future retirement ceremonies.

Cartner led the flag-burning Wednesday morning off a downstairs patio with about 30 veterans in wheelchairs attending. The Rowan County Veterans Honor Guard presented the colors, played taps and gave a gun salute.

Veterans in the audience held remnants of the flags readied for disposal. They held white stripes, red stripes or white stars in the blue fields.

The white stripes were gathered and brought to the fire first.

Cartner said they stood for purity and innocence.

Next came the red stripes, which should remind Americans of hardiness and valor.

Last came the blue fields and stars.

Cartner said the nation’s founders were inspired by their respective religious beliefs, so they looked to the heavens for symbols of the divine hand that helped them to forge a new nation.

“The blue field is like a clear sky that calls us to be vigilant, to persevere and to strive for justice,” Cartner said.

“Each star represents an individual state. The union of those stars in the blue field became a symbol of a new constellation in the sky for all to see and to take hope from.”

Cartner also led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance and a moment of silence.

While the flag-burning ceremony is a solemn one, “it is not a time for sadness as we watch these flags burn to ashes,” Cartner said.

“Instead, it is a time to celebrate the continuing success of the great purpose which our nation’s founders entrusted to all future generations.”

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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