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Caring for Old Glory

Special Photo
 As Boy Scout Troop 410 Senior Patrol Leader Tim Williams, at far right, supervises, scout Patrick Riggs ties the flag while scout David Klein keeps the edge from touching the ground during a 6:45 a.m. flag-raising ceremony recently at the Bert Adams Scout Reservation in Newton County. 

Special Photo As Boy Scout Troop 410 Senior Patrol Leader Tim Williams, at far right, supervises, scout Patrick Riggs ties the flag while scout David Klein keeps the edge from touching the ground during a 6:45 a.m. flag-raising ceremony recently at the Bert Adams Scout Reservation in Newton County. 

With the Fourth of July just days away, many residents will adorn their homes with the American flag. But exactly what is the proper way to treat Old Glory?

A self-described flag etiquette stickler, Conyers Scoutmaster Carl Wust said teaching his boys in Troop 410 proper handling of the U.S. flag is paramount.

"I look at what a scout should be good at besides camping, starting fires and first aid and almost anyone will tell you a scout should know how to care for the flag and respect the flag," said Wust, the father of three Eagle Scouts and the leader for two decades of Troop 410, which meets at St. Pius X Catholic Church.

Wust said the most common mistake people make in displaying their flags is flying them even after they've become ragged, ripped and faded from the sun.

"According to flag code, the flag is a living being. When it is no longer suitable to represent the country, it should be removed from use and destroyed preferably by burning, but you don't have to burn it," said Wust.

Wust said people with worn flags may give them to a Boy Scout troop or the American Legion, which will dispose of them properly. Wust's troop hosts a flag retirement ceremony for the Yellow River district each September.

"The key word in all of this is respect," said Wust.

Wust said nylon flags, as opposed to cotton ones, last longer and can be washed in the washing machine and hung back up.

If the flag is displayed on a pole extending from the house, it should be either taken down in the evenings, or amply lighted at night, said Wust.

If the flag is hung in a window or from the wall, it should be attached only at the top, and allowed to hang freely, he said. The blue union field should be displayed in the upper left hand corner as viewed from the front.

As far as the flag touching the ground, Wust said it's acceptable to pick the flag back up and proceed to treat it with respect. Younger scouts sometimes do graze the ground with the flag by accident, he said.

Wust also believes that the public should remember to salute or put their hand over their heart when the flag is motion, such as during a parade or procession.

"It's a little etiquette thing that most people don't normally do," Wust said.

American Legion Post 77 Sergant-at-arms Zeste Debro-Knight said the American Legion offers classes on flag etiquette to whomever is interested. The organization also retires flags, most recently by burying them because burning can take up to 12 hours due to fireproof materials used in the flags.

Debro-Knight also said that people don't realize that the flag must be properly illuminated if it's going to be flown 24 hours a day.

"That's the biggest problem," Debro-Knight said.

He suggests visiting a hardware store and investing in a small light kit that can be placed on the ground in front of the flag to give it the attention it deserves.