Cadets and veterans respectfully laid old flags to rest at the 9/11 flag retirement ceremony on Sept 11.
Flag retirement happens whenever flags become too worn for duty.
“When our nation’s colors become tattered or dirty or torn, it’s the flag code that we destroy the flag, especially by burning,” said Cadet Andrew Clay Kinnaman, a senior integrated studies major from St George. “Every year, for the last couple of years, we’ve been having a flag retirement ceremony that we put on with the community…any flag that people are wanting to have retired, we take care of that for them.”
Carefully cradled in uniformed arms, the flags were folded and passed from new cadets to old veterans and then laid on a table in preparation for burning. If weather had permitted, they would have been hung directly on the burning rack and burned during the ceremony.
While a flag retirement ceremony can be unusual, this one was unique because it was held on 9/11. Unfortunately, it was raining on Tuesday — as Dan Greathouse, president of the local Vietnam Veterans chapter, said it has been every 9/11 since the attacks — so the ceremony was forced inside, and a table was used to improvise.
The ceremony, held in the Gardner Center Ballroom, highlighted two very different organizations.
The Vietnam Veterans Of Southern Utah “Keith Blackman” Chapter 961 were weathered, wrinkled and grizzled with black leather vests.
When explaining why the flag ceremony is important, Greathouse said: “I do this because I honor the flag; I honor my country. That’s why I served in Vietnam. I didn’t do it for myself; I did it for my country.”
The U.S. Army ROTC, 5th Brigade Cougar Battalion, Delta Company “Red Storm” had younger faces and wore desert digicam uniforms. They’ve seen soldiers and friends go overseas to fight in the war that began because of 9/11. For them, the effects of 9/11 are still very real.
Cadet James Dettle, a junior integrated studies major from Dugway, said, “Even now, 9/11 is still pretty fresh in people’s memories.”
“This day we chose in remembrance of the 9/11 attacks in 2001 because we are all close in remembrance, not just the tragedy but love for family and friends, brothers in arms,” said Kinnaman.
Cadet Kenneth Ochoa, a sophomore business administration major from Long Beach, Calif., said, “What more fitting than to retire flags in honor of those who are fallen?”
While some people may have been unable to find the ceremony as it moved at the last minute, the cadets were still disappointed in those who did not take time out of their schedule to commemorate 9/11 or support the veterans and ROTC.
Ochoa said: “That’s just a stab in the back. People are sacrificing their lives now for what happened back then. Why not take a minute of your day and honor those who are fallen?”