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The Kent American Legion, veterans, city officials and members of the community assembled on Wednesday for an official ceremony to retire worn and torn American flags as part of Flag Day observance.
Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala, Kent Police Department, Kent Fire Department and Boy Scout troop 257 and Cub Ccout troop 3250 were in attendance.
A small fire burned as commander James Lupton inspected the flags and presented them for disposal. Chaplain John Caipen read a prayer and members of the post placed the worn flags on a rack over the fire as first vice-commander Bob Brauning sounded bugle call "To the Colors."
"They play 'To the Colors' when they're raising the flag," Brauning said. "Generally it's scheduled for 8 o'clock every morning if you're on a post or military base. When it comes on everybody turns wherever they are on base and salutes to the colors. It was appropriate today for us to address the colors."
Kent American Legion collects hundreds of soiled flags throughout the year from people in the community. They hold this ceremony to respectfully dispose of them every year on Flag Day.
"People call and say 'I have a flag to get rid of what do I do?' and we say bring them here because we take care of them in a ceremony," said Kim St. Hilaire, home post manager. "They can always bring them to our post so we can dispose of them properly and people don't just throw them in the trash."
The ceremony has been an American Legion tradition since the 1930's, but it's the first year the Portage post asked the boy scouts to participate.
"It's a learning experience for them of why we do this and what it's all about so the tradition continues and it doesn't stop with this generation," Hilaire said. "We need to teach our youth how to respect the flag and everything that goes along with that. They're the next generation and they need to know."
Boy Scout Kyle Hodan, 12, and his brother, Cub Scout Mick, 8, helped place the flags on the fire.
"I come from a military background," said Crystal Roberts, a mom of one of the cubs. "My husband was a marine and he's demonstrated this and taken the pieces and talked about what individual color means, so I think it's important the kids see that the flags even though they don't look good they're still respected and it's done in a peaceful respectful way."
Fiala has attended the ceremony before and was happy to see the community engagement this year.
"I think it's a great thing," Fiala said. "People wonder what to do with their flags. Throwing them in the garbage is not the thing to do. They are retired in a very positive manner and that's what they're doing."
The flags were still burning by late afternoon. Hilaire said the post will hold a second ceremony at 5 p.m. on Veterans Day in November because they have so many more flags to dispose of. The public is welcome to attend.
"I want the Kent community to understand that we're here," Hilaire said. "We're open to the public. We're one of the only American Legions in this area that's open to the public, so people can come in any time sit and talk with the vets. It's a relaxed atmosphere. There's a lot of older people that don't like that college scene."