Collin Gilbert

Collin Gilbert shakes hands with Jack Bower on May 14.

A prospective Eagle Scout is making his way along the path this Memorial Day weekend following completion earlier this month of the project that may propel him to an honor enjoyed by less than 2 percent of all Scouts nationwide.

Collin Gilbert, a member of Atchison Wagon Wheel, Scouts BSA Troop No. 94, completed his Eagle project and presented it to the Board of Atchison County Commissioners on May 14. He created a drop-off box for local citizens looking for a place to properly dispose of their old, tattered, and/or faded flags. The Flag Retirement Dropbox will be located on the main level of the Atchison County Courthouse, to the left of the main entrance.

According to U.S. Flag code, once the physical condition of a flag has deteriorated — either because of age, wear and tear or sudden damage — to the point where it is no longer fit for public display in a dignified manner, it should be destroyed by burning, or turned over to an organization that will see it done.

Scouts nationwide routinely participate in ceremonial flag retirements. A properly conducted flag burning first involves the destruction of the stripes with a knife or other tool, without tearing the blue union. Keeping the union intact until burning symbolizes faith that the unity of the nation will last until the end of time. The torn stripes and intact union should then be thrown into a wood-fueled fire that is hot enough to ignite the entire flag at once.

The burning of the U.S. flag is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but a proper retirement ceremony should be conducted in silence and in a place out of full public view, in a manner akin to the cremation of a loved one. Those who wear or have worn a uniform in public service — such as Scouts, members of the military, veterans or members of law enforcement agencies — should render a salute during the burning of the flag. Afterward, the ashes shouldn’t be treated as ordinary waste, and instead be scattered of in a body of water or mixed into soil.

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