Opinion: A flag to be retired


Photo by Jack Zievers

The torn flag that flies near the baseball diamond

Staff and students of Naperville North High School having fully returned to the building, focus on school image has grown exponentially. From the inaccurate 50th anniversary banners flying in the parking lots (last school year was the 50th anniversary, not this year), to the tattered American flag formerly flying out over the varsity baseball field, Naperville North is an eclectic mix of out-of-touch fixtures.

Just beyond the baseball diamond’s outfield fence, a tattered U.S. flag flaps in the wind. All is quiet, the sun gracing a new morning. Such a brief description draws the image of a forgotten plot of land. Yet this exact description is of one Sunday morning when I was out getting breakfast; I noticed a worn American flag that had likely been flying for much of online school remained up, even now that the student body had returned to the school. Meanwhile, in the parking lot hung new banners celebrating a 50th anniversary that had occurred the year before. To see the flag in such a neglected state while the school concerned itself in celebrating what had come and gone was frustrating.

Traditionally, an American flag is only flown so long as it is physically fit to represent the United States. Jeffry Bedore, a former Marine and current NNHS social studies teacher, was disappointed in the neglect shown to the flag.

“When the national ensign is unfit for display, you are supposed to take it down and dispose of it,” Bedore said.

The process of retiring a flag is not exceptionally difficult. Luke Welch, a senior at Naperville North and Senior Patrol Leader of Boy Scout Troop 510, stated that the matter can be conducted by boy scouts or if need be a flag can be brought to a local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post. 

“They don’t even need to contact a troop [for flag retirement]. You can contact one of the VFWs and they will do a flag retirement ceremony for you. So even if it’s not just through the Boy Scouts, you can get a flag retirement ceremony,” Welch said.

Welch has previously partaken in flag retirement ceremonies conducted by members of his troop, and they work in partnership with a Chase Bank branch in Chicago to retire a flag on an annual basis. With the number of students at North who are members of the BSA, the school should not overlook a fumble of this proportion. 

“The fact that they cut the flag up after it was already torn is very disrespectful to the flag and with big flags such as the one that the school flies, [they] should generally be replaced once a year,” Welch said.

As Welch emphasized, neglecting to retire a flag that is unfit for display disrespects the history and people of the United States through the symbolism of the flag. Responsibility to maintain a flag in proper condition falls to active and retired military personnel as well as groundskeepers and civilians. Welch went on to say that there is no reason for the school to allow a tattered flag to fly, even through quarantine.

“The flag should have been taken down because everyone who goes through that major intersection of Naperville sees that flag, so it is not excusable to say ‘oh, it’s over quarantine so there’s no students here, there’s no faculty here. It’s still an American flag, it’s still in the sight of people. It should be retired,” Welch continued. 

Resources to properly understand flag retirement ceremonies are readily available online with a simple Google search, yielding results that outline proper proceedings. Bedore suggests that if people are still uncertain as to what steps should be taken, they can seek out veteran services.

Over the past half decade, we have seen much political turmoil across the political and social spectrum. An activity that requires as much respect as the retirement of a flag is something that we should all get behind. It’s simple, straightforward and there’s no asking whether or not it should be done. If a flag seems to be in need of retirement, then the least that can be done is alerting the proper individuals of the situation to show respect to a national symbol.