Veterans Memorial Park

Local Boy Scouts to Retire U.S. Flags

  • May 27, 2016
  • /   Jeremy Morrison
  • /   Post Tags

A burning American flag tends to evoke a visceral feeling in many people. The scene is upsetting, tainted with disrespect for the United States and those that serve to defend her.

But that will not be the case when local Boy Scouts begin burning American flags at the Veterans Memorial Park on Memorial Day. On that occasion, the fires will be lit with honor as the youth properly retire worn flags from throughout the area.

"We retire them as respectfully as we can,” explained Rylan Ripley, a 17-year-old scout in Troop 340.

Kenny Pearson, assistant scoutmaster with Troop 340, remembers a past flag retirement ceremony when a veteran’s widow presented the scouts with her husband’s old flag to retire. She waited until her flag was put on the flames and then saluted.

"It’s very respectful and solemn,” Pearson said. "It’ll get you.”

Local Boy Scouts have been participating in this annual retiring of flags for years. Traditionally, the event has been held at Barrancas National Cemetery aboard Naval Air Station Pensacola. This year, for the first time, it will take place at the Veterans Memorial Park.

"At Barrancas, it was basically us, there wasn’t any public eye,” said Troop 340 Scout Master Ryan Ripley, explaining that he feels that people visiting the park during the Memorial Day event will appreciate watching and participating in the retirement of the flags.

The retirement ceremony will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Memorial Day and it will last for several hours. Preparation for the ceremony, however, has already begun.

For weeks, the scouts have been collecting flags from all over the community. People bring them in and drop them off, knowing that the scouts will dispose of them properly.

"At the Boy Scouts office, people deliver them there all the time,” Scoutmaster Ripley said.

"We get over a thousand flags every year,” said Rylan, the scoutmaster’s son.

The scouts have been working to prepare the flags for retirement. They have cut the blue field of stars from the stripes and separated the two.

"We burn all the stripes together and burn all the stars together,” explained Rylan. "We don’t burn them as whole flags.”

This year, the stars are being saved and given to the American Legion, which plans to separate them into individual stars, which will then be given to veterans along with an accompanying poem.

"That’s new,” the scoutmaster said.

To be a candidate for retirement, a flag must be worn out. Flying frays and tears does not demonstrate the appropriate respect.

"Torn, tattered, damaged,” Pearson runs down the criteria, "soiled to the point where it can not be cleaned.”

Contrary to what people may have been told, flags that touch the ground do not merit automatic retirement.

"You don’t have to burn it,” smiles the scoutmaster. "That’s a lot of the time what you tell children so they don’t drag it on the ground.”

The youth in local Boy Scout troops do not need to be spoken to like children. They understand full well the respect and honor that the American flag demands. They wear it on their uniforms and salute it during their gatherings.

And some — like Rylan Ripley, who plans to join the U.S. Navy next year — will soon be serving under it in the United States military. With intentions to see the world and defend his country, the scout will be following in his father’s footsteps.

"It’s kind of in my blood,” Rylan smiled.

Throughout May, the Veterans Memorial Park Foundation is sharing a series of stories dealing with service and sacrifice and the members of our community who work to honor and preserve the memories of our fallen defenders of freedom.

The Veterans Memorial Park of Pensacola depends on the generosity of people like you to provide ongoing maintenance and upkeep for the grounds and the artwork. Please consider becoming a Friend of the Park by setting up a monthly donation. Thank you for your support.



Veterans Memorial Park