Schenectady County

Trio of Rotterdam Boy Scouts giving flags a proper sendoff

An American flag hung in front of Pinewood Elementary School every school morning for years, endurin

An American flag hung in front of Pinewood Elementary School every school morning for years, enduring rain, snow, sleet and sun until long rents ran through the faded banner.

It was lowered for the last time Wednesday by three fifth-grade boys.

Noah Weidman had approached Vice Principal Deborah Kavanaugh four weeks ago to discuss the state of decay the flag was in. With Kavanaugh’s approval, Noah and his Boy Scout Troop 357 companions Oliver Presson and Matt Miller retired the school’s flag and hoisted a new one that was donated by a parent.

“I think it’s really commendable that they uphold the respect for the flag,” Kavanaugh said. “They are role models.”

Since kindergarten, Noah has been having his dad stop the car so he can knock on the doors of businesses and homes alike to inform flag owners of the condition of their flag so it can be retired.

“I think it’s important because the flag represents the freedom of our country,” he said, “and I don’t think it should be worn out. People fight for the flag every day, and sometimes, people take advantage of that.”

Noah has never had issues with people being mean, though sometimes they say they will take care of it themselves. Boy Scout Troop 375 has collected more than 200 flags that needed to be retired.

Oliver and Matt have also take up this crusade, as well. For Matt, it is a way to show respect for his father, who was in the Air Force.

All three boys have been a part of Boy Scouts for at least five years and decided to join Troop 357, in which they do the customary survival training, camping trips and community service, as well as take part in ceremonial flag burnings to retire the flags.

Oliver’s father, Dave Presson, said he has become more aware of flags that are weatherworn since taking part in the ceremonial retirement flag-burning rituals.

“Just being exposed to that ritual creates a different awareness to what the flag represents,” Dave Presson said.

The boys become very aware of the flag because it is a long ritual: It takes two hours of almost continuous burning to retire 25 to 30 flags. Each one must be completely disintegrated before the next can go in, a task that takes four or five minutes each. The scouts must hold a salute to the flag, as well, for the duration of the ceremony.

The boys will be standing there, with their little arms shaking from holding the salute for so long, said Noah’s father, Karl Weidman.

On Memorial Day, there is special flag etiquette: The American flag should be raised to the top of the staff for an instant, then lowered halfway until noon, at which point it can be raised to the top for the remainder of the day.

Those in the community who have flags that are worn or damaged can contact their local Boy Scout troop or Veterans of Foreign Wars post for proper disposal.

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