HOLTVILLE — In alternating forms, red – white – red – white, the remains of the slightly-dingy, well-worn American flag were cut up and put in the flames, giving the symbol of the nation’s freedom a proper retirement.
The American Legion Bradley/Keffer Post and Auxiliary 138 held its second flag retirement ceremony Monday at Pine Elementary School near here, teaching the students about proper flag etiquette and patriotism.
Students filled the open area at the school, holding miniature flags — some waving them above their heads — as they learned the proper way to retire a flag.
The event went very well, said Andrew J. Lowenthal, American Legion 30th district commander and past commander of Post Bradley/Keefer 138 from the Holtville area. The students responded well to the lessons that were being taught Monday morning.
It was especially nice to see a World War II veteran, Pete Mellinger, at the event interacting with the students, he said. The American Legion post hopes to put on another ceremony in a couple years to bring the importance of flag etiquette to more of the children of Holtville.
Throughout the more than one hour ceremony past and current military members spoke about the love and importance of the Stars and Stripes.
The flag represents many different things, said Capt. Devon Jones, commanding officer of Naval Air Facility El Centro and guest speaker of the event.
“It’s a visual symbol of what our nation stands for,” he said. “It’s a symbol of what our Constitution stands for: that everyone is created equal, that everyone has rights to live how they like to, to attend the church of their choice, the school of their choice.
“Remember that when we’re saluting a flag, we’re not really saluting the cloth, the material, the flag itself …,” he added. “We’re saluting what the flag stands for.”
The flag, for Jones, means freedom, patriotism, uniting the states as a country, he said. It also represents all those who have fought for this country, and those who have died for it.
Students and guest speakers like veterans Sheriff Raymond Loera and Sgt. Gordon Johnson read speeches about the history behind the flag and dedications to its importance to America.
The event went very well, said school Principal Margie Stacey. It was a great experience for the students.
She said she hopes the students got a sense of patriotism, meeting the veterans that attended and spoke at the event. It also gave them information, like how to properly dispose of a flag and not to let the flag touch the ground, things that the school is already teaching some of the students, she added.
Clarissa Montes, 12, said she did get that sense of patriotism during the ceremony. As she and a dozen other students held up the flag — the material felt old, she recalled — she said she thought about the soldiers who fought and came back, and also those who didn’t come back.
“I felt proud,” she said. “There’s people to fight for us.”
Staff Writer Elizabeth Varin can be reached at email@example.com or 760-337-3441.