Sonoma’s Veterans of Foreign Wars post is celebrating Veterans Day differently this year in effort to encourage Valley residents to go to the major celebration in Petaluma.
The VFW, with help from local Boy Scouts, will host a flag retirement ceremony at 10 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 11, in front of the flagpole at the Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building. VFW Commander Dan Parker said the group is shortening its normal celebration so that attendees can make it over to the North Bay Veterans Day Parade at 1 p.m. in downtown Petaluma. “This is a huge event, with thousands of veterans in attendance, and we want all of the veterans in the area to go and be united,” Parker said.
Instead of the usual ceremonies, which have spotlighted local veterans from certain wars and included lunch at Vintage House senior center, Parker said the group will retire old flags in a similar ceremony to one he saw last year. “I’ve wanted to do this for a long time,” Parker said. “We’re getting swamped with flags.”
Parker said most people stick their old flags in a bag or in the garage and then forget about them, not knowing how to properly dispose of a flag. There’s one flag retirement ceremony, he explained, in which the star field is cut out and each stripe is taken apart in order to “make a flag not a flag.”
The VFW will retire one flag on Veterans Day, performing “a patriotic ceremony,” where the flag to be retired is raised one last time before being divided into quarters.
When the flag is no longer a flag, but rather pieces of fabric, Parker explains, the group will burn the remnants and bury the ashes at an undisclosed location. At the end of the ceremony, the group will raise a new flag.
Parker said flag retirement is a service the VFW is going to start providing in the community and the group will retire more flags in the future.
While this is the only time the group is planning to retire flags on Veterans Day, Parker does want to make this a yearly event, “possibly on Flag Day (June 14).”
Parker said the VFW is already planning a very special Veterans Day event for next year that will focus on veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While there are no scheduled speakers at this year’s retirement ceremony, Parker said 1st District Supervisor Susan Gorin will be in attendance. The VFW’s ladies auxiliary will serve a luncheon to the first 150 veterans and their families.
The public is invited to bring their old flags to this free event. The Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building is located at 126 First St. W.