KENT: One by one, 20 U.S. flags went up in smoke.
For the 14 veterans who witnessed the flag retirement ceremony at the Freedom House, it was another chance to remember their sacrifices and those of comrades who never came home.
For the 31 Cub Scouts from Cuyahoga Falls, it was an opportunity to learn about the symbols of the flag and meet some of the men who fought for it.
So they stood in the yard at the Anita Drive home to formerly homeless vets and committed the flags to flames with dignity.
Stan Lero, committee chairman for Pack 3161, said the Flag Code calls for old flags to be burned, although he acknowledged that does not always happen.
There are rules to follow and symbols to talk about, but one stands out.
“As long as everything is done respectfully, there is no wrong way,” he said.
For the first flag, he took scissors and cut the stripes into 13 pieces of cloth. The blue cloth with the 50 stars stayed in one piece to represent the continuing unity of the country.
A few minutes later, with the vets and Scouts standing in the sunshine of a beautiful day, each fragment of cloth was dropped in a roaring campfire.
Each piece was another chance to remember something from history. Fallen veterans from the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the World Wars, Korea, Vietnam; the presidents; the scouting movement; God, parents, family; the armed forces in general and American Freedom.
Then the veterans walked up to the fire holding an uncut flag in their hands with a Cub Scout by their side and retired those symbols to the fire. Many took a moment to pay tribute to old comrades and family as they held the flag above the flames.
Freedom House is for veterans down on their luck. It has room for 14 men who have few resources and nowhere else to stay.
Program operation coordinator Tom Saal said that since 2008 the home has offered shelter to individual veterans for up to two years. Services include helping fight the demons that put them in trouble.
The services of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are available routinely.
“Our goal here is to get them housing, get them a job and maybe some assistance through the VA (Veterans Affairs),” he said.
The day wasn’t entirely solemn.
The scouts entertained the vets with skits and songs. Hot dogs and chips were served after the ceremony.
The scouts, including a few from Pack 3162, also delivered 14 bags of food to the house.
U.S. Army veteran and home resident Greg Kirklin said he was thankful for the chance to see the ceremony and visit with the scouts.
“This is something I had never seen before,” he said. “I was very inspired by it. I want to see it again.”
He might. Ronda Roxbury, one of the scout leaders, said there are plans to make it an annual event.
Dave Scott can be reached at 330-996-3577 or firstname.lastname@example.org.