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Flag burning ceremony held by American Legion

Old flags retired with ceremony and respect

LANSING, Ill. (June 15, 2019) – Over 60 people gathered outside the American Legion building on Flag Day, June 14, to witness and participate in a flag burning ceremony. The first ceremony in Lansing in at least 10 years, the event featured a mixture of speakers and readings before retired American flags were burned in large drums outside the American Legion building.

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Former president of the American Legion Unit 697 Auxiliary Sandi Gangolf welcomes a crowd of about 60 to the flag burning ceremony from atop the steps of the American Legion building. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

The ceremony

The ceremony started at 7pm and was organized by Sandi Gangolf, former president of American Legion Unit 697 Auxiliary. Surrounded by other American Legion supporters and members, Gangolf gave a short welcome on the front steps of the Legion building. Those in attendance were invited to join in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Village Trustee Mike Fish made some comments on behalf of the Village saying, “Thanks to the American Legion members that have joined us, as well as all the veterans, men and women, for bringing us together as a community to affirm our love and loyalty to this country and values for which it stands.”

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Village Trustee Mike Fish spoke on behalf of the Mayor and the Village of Lansing. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Boy Scout Troop 276, which is charted by the American Legion Unit 697, provided a flag-folding demonstration as Scoutmaster Chris Jacobson read the significance of each fold:

The poem “I am the Flag,” written by Howard Schnauber, was read in parts by members of different Legion organizations and others closely related to the Legion.

Flag burning

American flags were then burned in large metal drums in the field adjacent to the Legion building. A handful of large garbage bags full of flags were burned at the ceremony, many of which had been taken out of the flag donation bins located at both the north and south end of the Legion building. Gangolf’s husband and VFW Commander Bert Gangolf oversaw the ongoing flag burning throughout the evening.

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VFW Commander Bert Gangolf (center) and American Legion Riders President Nick Grigutis (right) burn flags with help from Boy Scout Troop 276. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
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Event organizer Sandi Gangolf tosses a retired flag into the flames. She hopes the ceremony will become an annual tradition in Lansing. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Although flag burning is often thought to be a negative demonstration, when done properly and respectfully, it is the proper way to dispose of retired American flags. The United States Code says: “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

In 1937, the National Convention of the American Legion adopted burning as the “official ceremony for the destruction of unserviceable American Flags.” In 1944, the organization resolved that Flag Day, June 14, “be recommended as the most appropriate day on which to annually hold this ceremony.”

This flag box is located on the south side of the American Legion building. There is a similar box on the north side. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Gangolf and others involved in the ceremony hope to make flag-burning an annual occurrence in Lansing.

Flag day falls on June 14th every year.

The American Legion building is located at 18255 Grant Street. Old mailboxes serve as flag retirement boxes on the north and south side of the building and are available all year long.

Josh Bootsma
Josh Bootsma
Josh is Managing Editor at The Lansing Journal and believes in the power and purpose of community news. He covers any local topics—from village government to theatre, from business openings to migratory birds.