With a set of clean unused scissors and a group a volunteers of the Warrior Bonfire Program, dozens of American Flags were prepared and stored for upcoming Bonfire American Flag Retirement Ceremonies. Every Bonfire retreat that is held as part of the Warrior Bonfire Program, host a flag retirement ceremony in honor of our Purple Hearts fallen brothers and sisters. Here, each attending Veteran receives a red, white and blue strip to retire into the flames as the words set forth by Congress are read aloud.
Members of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 112 of Jackson, MS spent hours dismembering old glory, in the most respectful of ways, with clean scissors, never letting it touch the ground and removing the union first. After having read aloud the ceremony shown below, they got to work. “This looks easier than it is, not only is it tedious but it’s emotional as well” stated one of Warrior Bonfire’s top volunteers, Bobbie Chapin. “My husband served in Vietnam, so my heart is close to the military, and to think of all those that serve and sacrifice while we were preparing these flags got me choked up!”
As the group worked and the thoughts wondered to all those service members who fought under our glorious flag, that these ladies know personally, a realization came to light that stopped their hearts in just a moment of wow! “It’s D Day!” exclaimed on of the ladies. All fell silent and the magnitude of the price of freedom became incredibly real!
The process in which the Warrior Bonfire retires the American Flag, serves as a therapeutic tool to help those we serve to find peace and sometimes closure. Most of these men and women never had the opportunity to attend a formal memorial service to face the loss and lay their friend to rest. “At the bonfire it was good to get the bad memories out, once it was over I felt at peace, something I haven’t felt in a very long time,” explains Purple Heart Stephen Blair.
A dilemma we sadly face too often at our Bonfires explained by Purple Heart Chet Brown, “Losing 7 guys on one day, I was worried about only having 3 pieces of Flag. Inside they all know how I felt. It was the first time I said their names “out loud” in 16 years.” Although each participant receives only three stripes to retire, they are welcome to take as much time as they need to name their friends, tell their stories, shed the tears and hug it out with others. These stripes are more than just pieces of flags, they are pieces of our nations soul.
We thank Bobbie Chapin and the ladies of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 112 of Jackson, MS for their time and respect. Their service in this manner is incredibly important to the therapeutic value that our Purple Heart Veterans receive, on our retreats.