Austintown veterans ceremonially retire flags


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By AMANDA TONOLI

atonoli@vindy.com

AUSTINTOWN

Austintown veterans came together Thursday afternoon to ceremonially retire flags by burning them at South Wickliffe Circle in Austintown.

This Flag Day celebration was composed of an honoring ceremony, “properly retiring unserviceable flags,” said Dave Daisher, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4237 chaplain.

Unserviceable flags are those that are torn, tattered or muddy, he said.

Daisher remembers asking three boys if they knew what flag burning symbolizes — and getting the best answer he’s ever heard.

“They said, ‘We are [first burning then] burying flags the way we bury the dead American soldiers,’” Daisher explained. “I can’t say it any more eloquently than that.”

After the flags are burned Daisher said he is taking them to a Berlin Center farm for a burial. The farm volunteered the land for the burial.

“It’s just the proper way — you don’t throw them out in the trash or anything like that,” said Sam Swoger, recently named Veteran of the Year at the United Veterans Council of Greater Youngstown. “It means everything to us.”

Daisher said burning flags in such a respectful manner is another way to honor the nation.

“It’s honoring the flag itself,” Swoger said.

And the flag, Daisher said, is a symbol for freedom.

Swoger said it should be honored as such.

“People get the wrong idea and they get upset with some people at [kneeling] at football games, and they have right to do what they want to do,” Swoger said.

“Because we gave them that right,” Daisher finished.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the National Anthem in 2016, a quiet but powerful protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system.

Kneeling during the The Star-Spangled Banner, Swoger said, is not the proper way to execute that right.

“There is a proper way to protest and the flag has more to do with giving people the right to do what they’re doing,” he continued. “You don’t disrespect the flag which is a symbol of your freedom to speech. What they’re doing now, taking a knee, is the freedom of speech.”

In May NFL owners approved a new policy aimed at addressing the National Anthem protests, permitting players to stay in the locker room during the The Star-Spangled Banner but requiring them to stand if they come to the field.

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