Disposing of an Old Glory

Santa Barbara News-Press

Friday, August 3, 1990

Local News

[photo, not shown here, captioned:]

American Legionaries Dick Reilly, left, and Gary Reisenweber begin disposing of an old American flag.

--begin retyped article text, headlined:

Disposing of an Old Glory

By Anna Cearley
News-Press Staff Writer

The faded stars and stripes of Old Glory slowly turned black as they were burned by the flames from a small furnace during a flag retirement ceremony at UCSB on Thursday.

About 30 spectators and speakers gathered around UCSBs' Eternal Flame Memorial Peace Monument to watch as members of the Santa Barbara chapter of the American Legion cut the flag's stripes one by one and handed them to David Crockett Williams, who gently placed the limp stripes on the furnace.

"Flag burning is suppose to be done in a respectful way," said Williams, who organized the ceremony and said he wants to shed more light on the tainted perception of flag burning.

The United States Flag Code designates burning the American flag with ceremonial procedures such as saying the Pledge of Allegiance, as the proper way to put a worn and torn flag to rest.

"It's kind of like a funeral service," said Gary Reisenweber, a member of the Legion.

Before the flag parts were burned at the ceremony, Legion member Armando Vasquez read aloud snippets of Revolutionary history about each of the thirteen original Colonies as other members helped and cut the stripes that they represented.

The flag was one of many that are turned in to the Santa Barbara Chapter of the American Legion.

After the parts were burned, Williams caught a flame on a stick to light a red lantern hanging from a braided string that was tied to the top of a waist-high tetrahedral metal frame.

Williams said he hoped the flame burning in the lantern, which he calls the American Peace Flame, will be carried to other parts of the nation and world to ignite ceremonial fires for future traditional retirement ceremonies of old American flags.

The ceremony was performed near the UCSB monument so that a part of the "peace flame" could mix with the "eternal flame" which was lighted in 1969. The monument, a gift from the senior class, is inscribed with quotes about peace made by John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.

After being extinguished for several years to conserve energy, the "eternal flame" was relit in 1987 by the mayors of Santa Barbara and its sister city Yalta. The flame was also touched this year by the Hiroshima Peace Flame, lit in 1959 by survivors of the atomic bomb that was dropped by the United States on Hiroshima near the end of World War II.

Craig Trotter, a UCSB senior, was among the passers-by who watched the ceremony. He said the event made him think more about the two very different reasons people burn flags.

It's kind of ironic that what the people here are doing is so efficient and yet it is also what Bush is trying to change," he said, referring to attempts to pass a constitutional amendment against flag desecration.

Williams said he plans to bring the lantern to De la Guerra Plaza for Fiesta. From Monday through Thursday, he said, the lantern will occupy a place in front of City Hall to commemorate the victims of the two atomic bombs.