VFW members Fred Lavery, left, and Michael Krogh, salute as a flag is properly destroyed during the flag retirement ceremony in Indian Rocks Beach on Flag Day. At rear is VFW member Charlie Koss.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – Eleven years ago retired Navy Commander Victor Wood of Indian Rocks Beach approached the then-mayor of the city and asked if some sort of ceremony could be held to honor Flag Day.
The city wasted no time. That very year marked the first Flag Day-Flag Retirement ceremony in, what was then, the brand new IRB Nature Preserve. Every year since, the city’s ceremony, which is unique in Pinellas County, has been held on Flag Day in Chic-A-Si Park.
Mayor R.B. Johnson has said he is proud of the event.
“We don’t have anything special for the Fourth of July or any of the other holidays,” he said. “We put our effort and pride into our Flag Day ceremonies.”
On June 14, Johnson was again at a podium hosting the 11th annual event, and his remarks underscored just how important an event it is.
“Flag Day is a day to honor our flag,” he said. “In honoring our flag we also express love for our country.”
Dozens of people crowded into the park for the ceremony. Wood was among those who spoke. He gave a crowd a lesson in flag etiquette. Among the standards of respect for the flag was the fact that a flag should never be used as a covering, for a desk or platform. A flag should never be used in advertising. A flag should never be part of a costume or athletic uniform, although flag patches can be used on the uniform of military personnel, police officers, firefighters and patriotic organizations. And when a flag is worn and no longer fit to be displayed it must be destroyed in a dignified manner.
Members of the VFW Post 10094 were on hand to demonstrate how a flag is retired in a dignified manner. They showed the crowd a tattered old flag, then unfurled it and held it over a bed of white, hot coals until it caught fire. Then, saluting, they stood over the fire until the flag was destroyed.
The official guest speaker of the day was state Rep. Jim Frishe. He told the crowd the flag is a symbol of who we are.
“People who respect the flag respect other people,” he said.
“That becomes the glue that holds our society together. The people, who have respect for their neighbors, also respect their country and themselves.”
He went on to remind people to take the time to show respect.
“People are so busy we forget to say thank you,” he said. “But we are great because we have a spirit to help others. Freedom is a heavy lift.”
Among the people in attendance were Norm Reagan of Indian Rocks Beach and his two grandchildren who had come from Akron, Ohio for a visit.
“I bring them here every year,” said Reagan. “They enjoy it and it is important for them to know about the flag and what it represents.”
The day began with entertainment from the singing group The Class Act, who performed songs from the World War II era. The day ended with a prayer led by Pastor Jim Rapp of the Church of the Isles.
Afterward, attendees enjoyed refreshments and milled about talking with their neighbors and generally enjoying another Flag Day and Flag Retirement event in Indian Rocks Beach.