Published at PO Box 96 124 W. St. Clair Romeo, MI 48065. Phone: (586)752-3524 Fax: (586)752-0548
Updated Wednesday, December 04, 2013 at 3 PM EST
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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 09/18/13
Above, supporters, family and friends of the Romeo VFW stand in respect for the American flags as the fire blazes. Below, Carl Strange lights the flags at the fifth annual Flag Burning Ceremony.
(Observer photos by Marianne Weiss)
VFW 'retires' 162 flags at
5th annual burn ceremony
by MARIANNE WEISSLast Saturday evening, Veterans from Romeo's Striber/McVicar VFW Post #2052 got together with friends and family to honorably retire discarded U.S. Flags, burning them in a ceremony at sunset.
Observer Special Writer
Carl Strange, an Air Force Veteran and Brenda Leppanen of Ray Township hosted the event which included a barbeque for everyone after the ceremony. This is the fifth year in a row they have held the event.
"Each year this event is getting bigger and bigger." said Leppanen, a member of the Romeo VFW's Ladies Auxilliary. "We've invited more people and others keep coming back and bring friends."
As the sun sank lower in the sky, a red, two-seater airplane flew overhead from the nearby Ray Township airport, doing flips and showing off for the crowd. Hang gliders flew even closer, just over the trees as more people arrived.
By igniting discarded flags in this traditional way, they offer a service to the community. Shannon Dickens helps to coordinate events and collects the old flags.
"We had a box at my work this year and I got about a dozen in that," said Dickens, who has been the president of the Ladies Auxilliary since 2011. "The box says, `Retired American Flags for Proper Disposition.' We also have collection boxes at the Ray Township hall, our Romeo VFW hall and the local fire departments in this area."
Another member of the Ladies Auxilliary is Judy Stanek.
"I used to belong to Post #4659 on Van Dyke and 24 Mile Road, but now I am a member of the Romeo #2052," said Stanek, who was born in Tennessee. "My Dad moved us here when I was only 2, so I don't have a southern accent. Now my grandson is playing `Tapps' for us tonight. We raised our kids to respect the Veterans."
Thomas Herron, a junior at Romeo High School, was getting his trumpet out of the case before the ceremony began.
"I played `Tapps' last year for this and am glad to be here again," said Herron, who has been playing trumpet since the seventh grade.
He is 17 now and hopes to study mechanical engineering in college. His father, Tom Herron, has been a member of the Romeo VFW's Men's Auxilliary for five years.
"We do fundraising in town and have breakfasts three or four times a year," said Tom, who was proud of his son's part in the ceremony. "Mainly, we support the post and work on things like scholarships for local students."
Post Commander Frank Hatton was getting ready to start the ceremony.
"Our post has VFW members all over the United States, about 20 men and 20 women are currently active here in the Romeo area," said Hatton, who has lived in Romeo since 1952. "Chaplain Leonard Monfils will lead a tribute to start things off here tonight."
As Monfils started the ceremony, he said, "We pray that we will remain one nation under God. So befitting it is that these flags that have flown through wind, rain, sleet and snow and became worn and tattered should be given a proper and honorable retirement by fire."
Hatton added, "This flag has served its nation well and long and is worn to a condition in which it should no longer be used to represent the nation. This flag represents all the flags collected and being retired from service today. The honor we show here this evening for this one flag we are showing for all the flags."
As the flags were ignited, people placed their hands over their hearts and the U.S. Veterans stood at attention and saluted while the trumpet played "Tapps."
There were a total of 162 flags burned at once, including two Michigan flags and two P.O.W. (Prisoner of War) flags included in the ceremony. The crowd stood silent with respect as the flames soared high into the sky. As the flames died down, the crowd gathered back by the picnic area.
Leppanen was busy getting things ready for everyone to eat. "We want to thank everyone for attending and bringing food, especially Chris Stevens from the Romeo Cafe and Ron Cole from J.T. Powers who both brought refreshments," said Leppanen.