Shrewsbury scouts learn a lesson in flag etiquette

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By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

Ryan Pontbriand (left) – Parks & Cemetery Foreman, town of Shrewsbury; and Ben Cohen (right), Boy Scout, Troop 114.

Shrewsbury – The Shrewsbury Girl Scouts volunteer to place American flags on the graves of all Veterans before Memorial Day each year. However, it’s the Boy Scouts who volunteer to take them down in November, before winter sets in. 

On November 14, 34 scouts ranging in age from five years of age to 17, from Shrewsbury’s Cub Pack 114 and Boy Scout Troop 114, assisted the Shrewsbury Cemetery Department to remove this year’s flags.

“The scouts (now boys and girls) learn reverence and respect for both the flag and for the individual veterans that each flag represents,” commented Ian Gregory, troop leader and scout parent. 

Teddy Hruskoci. Boy Scout, Troop 114
Photos /Shrewsbury Boy Scouts

He estimated that over 1,000 flags were taken down this year, including one British flag.  

Gregory’s son Felix had the honor of removing that flag. The family is from the United Kingdom and Felix has dual American and British citizenship.

Gregory then shared that the Scouts held a “Flag Retirement” ceremony later that same day. The Boy Scouts of America is one of a handful of groups that have an official code for flag retirement.

“Conducting a flag retirement ceremony is a very meaningful opportunity for Scouts and Scouters to reflect on the meaning of the flag as a great symbol of freedom,” according to the Boy Scout Handbook: “As the symbol of America, it [the flag] stands for the past, present, and future of our country. It represents our people, our land, and our many ways of life.”

Desmond (left) and Garrett (right) Conlin. Both are Cub Scouts from Pack 114.

Traditionally, when the flag becomes “worn, torn, faded or badly soiled,” the way to retire it is by incineration. The process involves cutting the large flags, so they don’t smother the fire and burn (retire) easier. The individual stripes are cut separately while the section of the blue with the stars is cut separate and kept whole. 

“I’m very proud of the respect and reverence each of our scouts displayed in handling the flags,” remarked Ross Clark, troop scoutmaster. “It was an opportunity for them to reflect on these veterans who epitomized the Scout Oath and Scout Law that our scouts live by in their daily lives.

Photos /Shrewsbury Boy Scouts