Tuesday, January 25, 2011

TOP STORY >> Saying farewell to worn out flags

Leader staff writer

More than 200 U.S. flags were burned Saturday as Boy Scout Troop 23 of Cabot and American Legion Post 71 teamed up for a flag-retirement ceremony at the Cabot Community Fishing Pond at Kerr Station and Campground Roads.

Gary DeClerk of Jacksonville, a high school senior at Mills University Studies, organized the flag-retirement ceremony towards attaining the rank of eagle scout. DeClerk has been in the Boy Scouts since the first grade. Around 140 weathered U.S. flags were collected for the event at drop-off locations around the city.

The American Legion Post had collected more than 100 from drop-off locations.

DeClerk said March 2010 was the last time the Post held a flag-retirement ceremony. The America Legion collected the ashes for burial.

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert, Alderman Ann Gilliam, several legionnaires, Boy Scouts and Cabot police and fire department personnel were on hand for the ceremony.

“It is an honorable thing to honor the flag, those who died for it and the tradition it holds for our country. It is a reminder of how great our nation is,” the mayor said.

The first flag burned was a special piece of fabric. The flag was flown over the Indiana state capitol. The flag was presented to Raymond Morgan upon his retirement as the Indiana speaker of the House of Representatives after 33 years of service. His granddaughter requested the flag be retired because it was no longer in good condition.

Gary’s father, Kevin DeClerk, said he was proud of his son for his work organizing the retirement ceremony. Gary’s mother, Leonie, said boy and girl scouting are excellent programs.

His sister Sara was involved with Girl Scouts and earned the Gold Award.

“We need more kids to be in scouting. It teaches them good life skills, planning, responsibility and working with others,” she said.

After graduating from high school, Gary DeClerk wants to attend either the University of Rochester in New York, Rhodes College in Memphis or Hendrix University in Conway.

He plans on double majoring in mathematics and music.. DeClerk plays the cello.