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Fire-damaged county GOP flag laid to rest by veterans

January 31, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

The local Korean War Veterans Association laid to rest a fire-damaged American flag Tuesday afternoon.

Despite construction on the downtown El Centro plaza in the background and fire devastation in the foreground, the ceremony went off with military-like precision.

The ritual was carried out by the local KWVA Chapter 102 for a flag that belonged to the Imperial County Republican Party. The flag was damaged during the Jan. 24 fire at the Fox Theater, which also destroyed the adjacent GOP headquarters and a martial arts business.

KWVA president Ray Downs said a flag that has been soiled or damaged must be treated with honor and disposed of properly.

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"There is a correct procedure in the military to dispose of an American flag," he said. "Not very many people know or have witnessed the American flag being disposed of properly. We are doing the correct procedure."

Downs said it is important to dispose of the flag properly.

"The flag should be honored," he said.

After saluting the GOP-rescued flag, the veterans' group saluted while unfurling it. With patriotic music in the background, and the flag supported at the four corners, one person cut the union of the flag — that is, the area with the stars — out of it. The union was then taken to a separate area where it was cut into strips and gently placed within a 55-gallon drum to burn.

Meanwhile, the stripes were cut from each other by color. Each was then taken and also gently placed in the drum and burned.

When cool, the ashes were to be taken to an undisclosed location and buried. No marker would identify the area.

For the occasion, former Brawley resident Mel Ocampo came down from Santa Maria to perform the flag cutting. He said he established the Korean War Veterans Association in the Santa Maria Valley and remains friends with Korean War veterans locally.

Before the ceremony, Korean War veteran Joaquín "Junior" Reclosado spoke about the glorious history of this nation's flag, but how it is no longer treated with the respect it is due. He said rarely do people stand when the flag passes and that the flag is mistreated when people treat it with disrespect or use it as part of their clothing.

A new flag was donated to the GOP by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine. The flag had flown over the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, the Republican Central Committee is moving forward with plans to bring California Secretary of State Bill Jones to the county for a Lincoln Day dinner Feb. 20 at Brunner's in El Centro.

In addition, the GOP is in need of new office space, office furniture and equipment, telephones and computers. To donate any of the above, call 352-8250.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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