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Small Wonders: Honoring Old Glory

July 03, 2010|By Patrick Caneday

The flattening rays of the setting sun hit me from the west as I drove up the Glendale (2) Freeway into Montrose. From seemingly nowhere, a flock of snowy doves performed aerial acrobatics overhead. And on the seat beside me was Old Glory. "Old" being the operative word.

That flag has been through a lot these past years. Draped over the shoulders of those wishing to glorify themselves; worn as a lapel pin by others out of mere duty. Though its stripes have weathered, its stars falling off, our American flag is majestic and enduring. So it would be disrespectful to let this one fly in front of my house in its tattered condition any longer.

When my friend Nick heard that I was disposing of my old flag, he chastised me.

"You're in trouble," he scolded. "You can either donate it to a local Boy Scout troop or the VFW." One doesn't dispose of the flag, he told me. One "retires" it ceremoniously and honorably.


So that's why I'm heading to Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in the hills this fine evening. Boy Scout Troop 317 is holding a Court of Honor to graduate some Scouts through the ranks and present others with hard-earned awards. And they've agreed to retire my flag.

Scoutmaster Rich Toyon carefully took it from me as if it were a wounded bird and handed it to his Scouts. They unfolded my work and refolded the flag properly. This may be one reason I never made it past Cub Scouts.

Sitting among the gathered families in Healy Hall, I was struck by the pride filling the room.

Gangly young men with cowlicks disobeying any hair product, pants too long and feet they've yet to grow into, opened the proceedings with the Color Guard presenting their healthy flags. Parents and siblings looked on proudly.

I've stood with 56,000 people at Dodger Stadium holding my hat over my heart while singing the national anthem. That's nothing compared to the patriotism and sense of community one feels in the intimate setting of a group of Scouts during the Pledge of Allegiance.

I remember these events as a Cub Scout; twitchy boys jostling and joking with one another. And apparently things haven't changed in a generation. But these lads are obedient and attentive.

Before scavenging the beads, shoulder cords and badges off my brother's uniform after he left the Scouts, I did earn a few on my own. But I don't recall ever getting merit badges for golf, snow sports, metalwork and pet care. As with video games and playground equipment, kids today don't know how good they have it.

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