American flag honored, then burned

Mark Brooky • Jul 21, 2015 at 10:58 AM

About a half-hour after the waterfront event, the American Legion members burned 10 well-worn or tattered U.S. flags in a dignified disposal ceremony outside their South Harbor Avenue post. Post 28 members Carl Lori and Sue Metzler presented the flags for inspection in a military ritual — after which the flags were unfurled, doused with lighter fluid and quickly burned by Ray Ribbink, a past Post 28 commander.

Post 28 Cmdr. David MacKellar said the local American Legion disposes of hundreds of flags each year — most in private ceremonies throughout the year — brought to them by the public.

“Please, if you know of anybody that has flags that need destroyed, bring them to the American Legion or VFW,” he said. “We are truly honored to do this for our community.”

Earlier Tuesday evening, Elks Lodge 1200 — which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary — hosted a half-hour ceremony at Waterfront Stadium. Only about two-dozen people were in the stands.

“It’s a shame we can’t have this stadium totally filled up, but we appreciate those of you who have come,” the event’s chairman, Mike Lankes, told the sparse crowd.

The lodge’s exalted ruler, Sheryl Wescott, said she was disappointed by the meager attendance — but it’s not always been that way. Wescott said a recent Flag Day that fell on a Sunday brought out 77 World War II veterans to the stadium, with many dressed in their old uniforms.

“It was really, really cool,” she said.

See photo galleries from the ceremonies by clicking here

See the video of the American Legion's flag-burning service by clicking here

Lankes said the Elks were very instrumental in establishing Flag Day in the United States.

“June 14 holds a special meaning to those that have served (in the armed forces) and those that are serving now,” he said.

After posting of the colors (flags), singing of the national anthem by Carrie Ledet of Grand Haven and a short history of the country’s flag, Lankes encouraged the audience to make sure their younger family members respect the American flag and salute it each time it passes them in parades.

“As a member of the American Legion, the flag means a lot to all of us,” MacKellar said at the stadium ceremony. “The flag is an emblem of our country. We, along with members of the VFW, go to schools to show students the proper respect and care of the flag.”

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