Ray Humphrey, commander of Albany American Legion, post 30, is presented an American flag for inspection. (Staff Photo: Jim West)
ALBANY — Saturday was Flag Day throughout America, and to honor that occasion, members of the American Legion Post 30 in Albany performed a flag-folding and retirement ceremony on the front lawn of their Albany headquarters.
Before a small group of veterans and their families, members began promptly at 11 a.m, with a team of honor guard members raising the post flag to a the bugle call “To the Colors.”
Next, attendees to the ceremony were a given brief overview of Flag Day by Ray Humphrey, post commander, including its origins in Fredonia Wis., when, in 1885, a school teacher began celebrating what was called “flag birthday.”
Flag Day celebration became official, Humphrey said, in 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation which established a nationwide observance on June 14.
According to Humphrey, American flags should be displayed only from sunrise to sunset. If the flag is displayed at night it should be illuminated. When flags are displayed on a wall or window, the blue field should be in the upper left corner, and when flown, should be raised quickly and lowered ceremoniously. Humphrey said American flags should never be allowed to touch the ground or floor.
Beneath the shade of an oak tree, past post Commander Marvin Mixon instructed the honor guard in the step-by-step ceremonial folding of a full flag, the two folds coming lengthwise to the flag, then 11 more in alternating triangular shapes — 13 folds to symbolize the 13 original American colonies.
As the process moved forward, Mixon described the specific symbolism of each of the folds, from physical life in the first to eternal life in the second, then finally to a representation of “an emblem of eternity, God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost” for Christian Legionnaires.
At the completion of the folding ceremony, a separate and well-worn flag was presented to Humphrey for “inspection.”
“Has the First Sergeant inspected the Flag?” Humphrey asked. “First Sergeant, what does your inspection show, and what do you recommend?”
The First Sergeant replied that the flag was worn, faded and tattered and should be retired.
At Humphrey’s command, the honor guard advanced with the flag to the “disposal unit,” a metal cooker similar to a charcoal grill. The flag was then saturated with kerosene, placed in the metal unit and ignited.
Post members and other attendees saluted as black smoke belched from the cooker.
“We do this in part to educate the public,” Humphrey said later. “To have them understand what flag day is, and to have them value, as do we, the flag of our country. The veterans who fought for this country, the ones who defended this country and the ones who lost their lives defending it. We want to remember them. That’s what Flag Day is for.”