Ablaze in glory: Wilton American Legion holds annual flag retirement ceremony

WILTON — For country and code, American Legion Post 86 did its annual diligence for the town Sunday afternoon when it held its ceremonial flag retirement event.

“Today we’re probably going to have more than 1,000 flags,” said Tom Moore, adjutant for the local chapter, who did the job of disposing of each flag in the burning fire pit at the back of the post’s property.

All year long, he said, people are invited to drop off their flags for this very day.

“We ceremoniously, properly dispose of them by burning,” Moore said, rather than just letting them end up at a dump.

“The flags, once they become unserviceable, they’re faded, they’re ripped, they’re torn, there is a prescribed way of disposing,” explained Post Commander Paul Niche.

An expert in the Flag Code for many years, Niche has instructed many individuals — including local scouts — in proper flag etiquette, including folding and display.

“There are many generations of Wilton kids who have learned that from him,” said Sean McNeill, acting sergeant with the post.

The ceremony, which was followed by a picnic lunch for everyone in attendance, gave each participant a chance to handle of the triangularly folded flags as presented by McNeill.

They then handed the folded flags over to Moore, who opened them and draped them on the flames of the fire pit.

“We want the community to be involved today,” Moore said. “We like you all to participate.”

McNeil reiterated the importance of this annual practice.

“It reinforces the notion that this is something that has value,” McNeill said, “that it’s not disposable.”