By Tom Corrigan
“It’s our country’s emblem. You don’t just throw it in the trash,” says Tony Hamilton, club manager for Portsmouth American Legion Post 23, regarding faded, torn or otherwise damaged American flags. What you do instead, Hamilton adds, is what he calls “retire the flag.”
Hamilton’s post on Court Street just made it easier for area residents to treat older flags respectfully.
Post 23 Commander Beecher Wright is, of course, a veteran. He is also a retired U.S. postal worker. Hamilton says the Legion Post wanted a depository for old flags, so Beecher procured a used mailbox from his former employer. Hamilton says the box was in fairly good shape, but was a bit rusty and faded. To make the box usable, Post 23 officials sent it out for repairs and painting to students at the Scioto County Technical Center, the local vocational school. Hamilton had nothing but praise for the work the students did to the once-battered mailbox.
Students first restored the box, removing rust and repairing the metal as needed. They then painted it, appropriately enough, with a high-gloss stars and stripes pattern. The top is colored blue with a few white stars. Hamilton notes students went to the trouble of researching the proper shade of blue to use on the box.
“They really did a fantastic job. I can’t say enough about them,” he adds.
The finished box now sits in the foyer of Post 23. Hamilton says post officials talked about putting it outside, but decided against that idea as they didn’t want the box damaged by weather or potential vandals. The public is invited to deposit old, worn flags into the box any time the Legion is open. Hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day.
Hamilton says every year on Flag Day, which is June 14, the Post holds a ceremony to what he calls properly retire any collected flags. Ultimately, the flags are burned.
“They are treated respectfully, we don’t just toss them in a trash can,” Hamilton continues. He says the Legion regularly has about 100 flags to dispose of every year.
“We certainly usually have quite a few,” he says.
Hamilton says right now Post 23 has approximately 850 members, all, of course, veterans. Family members of veterans are invited to join the Sons of the American Legion or the Women’s Auxiliary. Hamilton further notes the Post used to have membership rolls numbering in the thousands. He says he is unsure what factors to blame for the drop in membership. He says some younger vets just don’t seem to want to be part of clubs. But for his part, Hamilton believes some veterans don’t realize how much good the American Legion does for former military members. He says many of the rights and benefits veterans enjoy were gained for them by the Legion or are, at least, protected by Legion lobbying.
Reach Tom Corrigan at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931