Col. Christopher Barron, New England District Commander, joined Concord, Massachusetts town officials, state representatives and residents in the annual Veterans Day Flag Retirement Ceremony held, Nov. 11.
The official procession began at the Prichard Gate of the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Col. Barron and parade marshal, Chief Warrant Officer 2 (CW2) Robert Norton of the Massachusetts National Guard, lead Veterans and military representatives, bagpipers, the 4-H Fife and Drum Corps, the Concord Minutemen and Concord Independent Battery, clergy, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, youth groups as well as selectmen and government officials through the cemetery to the cemetery flagpole for the official presentation.
“Veterans Day, for me, is a time for reflection, appreciation and reverent celebration,” he said. “It’s a time for the nation, and each of us – its citizens – to remember those citizen-Soldiers who throughout our history have made the sacrifice to serve in the United States Armed Forces and defend the nation.”
The District Commander reminded the audience that the freedom that all Americans enjoy is not free and that Veterans all over the country have been the ones who have stepped up to pay for it. “The price of our freedom is paid for with the dedication of the service and in some cases the lives of our citizens,” he said. “Across the globe, Patriots of the U.S. Armed Forces – America’s sons and daughters – our nation’s dearest treasure – protect our freedom with their blood, sweat and tears.”
Following the speeches, patriotic musical selections and invocation, the actual retirement of the American flags commenced. Residents lined up in front of several flaming barrels, one hand on top of the flag and one on the bottom, to reverently present them to the flag receiver who placed them into the flames. Piper Adam Holdaway played musical selections during the ceremony. The Concord Independent Battery fired cannons between songs.
Colleen Giddings, member of Concord's Public Ceremonies and Celebrations Committee and Master of Ceremonies for the event, explained the significance of the flag retirement ceremony. “When the American flag, the symbol of our nation, is in such condition that it no longer is a fitting emblem for display, it should not be simply cast aside or discarded in any way that might be viewed as disrespectful, but should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning,” she said.
According to Giddings, the tradition of the flag retirement ceremony in Concord began in 1965 when a group of residents proposed that the ceremony take place every year before winter arrived.
While residents waited in line for their flags to be retired, Giddings reminded them of why the American flag is so significant and why Americans should treat it with great respect. “It is red because of human sacrifice,” she said. “It is blue because of the true blue loyalty of its defenders. It is white to symbolize liberty – our land of the free. The stars are symbols of the united efforts and hope in the hearts of people striving for a greater, nobler America.”
During the event, Col. Barron spoke with Veterans who marched in the procession and brought flags to be retired. Col. Barron said that honoring Veterans does not have to be limited to just one day. “I urge you to remember our Veterans, today and throughout the year,” he said. “Remember their sacrifices and remember how much they loved their nation, so much so that they took up arms to defend it – in peace and in war. As I say this, our great nation has men and women of all our Armed Services deployed around the world, putting their lives on the line to preserve our freedom … every single day.”