Saturday afternoon's chilling winds did little to detract from the ceremonial retirement of more than 150 American flags at Pawhuska's Veterans Monument Park.
The event was coordinated by Eagle Scout candidate Justen Turner, who is currently registered with Troop 103 in Bartlesville. Turner has been involved in scouting since he was 9-years old and was active in Troop 43 and 33, working alongside longtime Scoutmaster Bruce Hendren and grandfather, Mike Justesen.
Turner began the ceremony saying, “We all love this free country we live in and we all love the flag that has flown over it for over 200 years. The American flag has served us for a very long time and deserves our greatest respect. Many have given much to protect it and, in many cases, lost their lives in doing so.”
Turner explained his goal of becoming an Eagle Scout and that this ceremony was a step toward accomplishing this objective. He also expressed his appreciation to Bartlesville and Pawhuska scouts and leaders from Troop 103, 43 and 33, community members and leaders and to his family. Turner expressed a very special than you to Pawhuska's American Legion Post 198 for hosting the event and helping collect the massive number of flags.
Turner said, “The US flag Code, Title 36, Section 176 states, 'The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.' Since more and more people are flying the flag, there are more flags in need of this type of ceremony, particularly since the life expectancy of a flag flown daily is about three months. The many flags we have here today have been gathered from individuals, businesses, organizations and Scout troops throughout this area.”
Guest speaker was Rick Stephens who, with the assistance of his wife, Cindy, talked about the history of the American flag.
In preparation for the flag retirement ceremony, four members of the color guard folded a symbolic worn and tattered flag which represented all of the flags that would be retired. Turner said, “The honor we show for this one flag, we are showing for all the flags. This flag has proudly flown over our Nation and its war dead.”
As the ceremony drew to an end, American Legion Post 198 Commander Newt Brown encouraged the crowd to notify them when any of their flags become too frayed to fly. Legion Post 198 will not only collect worn out flags but offer a replacement. Commander Brown may be reached at 918-287-1714 or 580-763-2595.
Turner is the 17-year-old son of Tara Dennis and Jason Turner and a senior at Dewey High School. He began this flag retirement process a month ago when he contacted Commander Brown about the proper procedure for this ceremony. He then obtained permission from the City of Pawhuska to hold the event at the Veterans Monument Park.
Following graduation, Turner will embark on a two-year mission for his church followed by enrolling at Oklahoma State University where he plans to pursue a degree in agriculture science.