ELKO – Black smoke wafted through the air as flames crackled and grabbed at the folds of red, white and blue cloth Friday afternoon.

Onlookers saluted or held their hands over their hearts, signifying the reverence of the moment. It was Flag Day and members of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Scouts gathered at Reynold’s Ampitheatre on the Great Basin College campus. Their mission: retiring the American flag.

“Today we are honoring not just our flag but what it symbolizes,” said Adjutant Brenda Horton. “We are honoring the freedom to worship as we please, to speak as we please and to vote as we please. Flag Day is America’s day. It represents liberation from tyranny, slavery, fascism, terrorism and communism.”

“Simply put, the flag represents us,” said Dick Robie of American Legion Post 5 in Winnemucca. “We owe it to our children, born and yet to be born, to continue to fly it high and proud.

“Interestingly enough, the Continental Congress left no record as to why it chose the colors it did for our flag,” he said. “The Congress of Confederation in 1782 chose the same colors for the Great Seal of the United States and reasoned that the white meant purity and innocence, the red meant valor and hardiness, and the blue was for vigilance, perseverance and justice.”

He said the flags they were about to retire had served their purpose.

Noah Koppe from Scout Troop 91 took the stand, asked the color guard to present the colors, and led the crowd through “The Pledge of Allegiance.”

“The United States Flag Code stipulates when the flag of our country has become worn or damaged, and is in such a condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, it should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning,” said Koppe.

Members of Troop 91 gathered a flag, presented it and placed it in on top of the fire.

One after another, the collection of well-worn flags was escorted from a table where they lay and placed upon the flame. Each one burned until the red, white and blue had turned black as coal.

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