NYS collecting old U.S. flags for ceremonial disposal Memorial Weekend

May 7, 2019

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that several dropoffs will be made available for the disposal of old, tattered and faded U.S. flags that will be retired later this month as part of a ceremonial watchfire hosted at the State Fairgrounds in Syracuse during Memorial Day Weekend.

Credit WBFO file photo/Chris Caya

From now through May 22, flag dropoffs will be available at several state offices including the Mahoney State Office Building on Court Street in Buffalo.

Flags collected through the state's effort will be sent to Syracuse, where at dusk on Sunday, May 26 they will be retired by the Vietnam Veterans of America Central New York Chapter 103, which will be hosting a watchfire on the State Fairgrounds.

A watchfire, as VVA Chapter 103 explains, is based on an older military tradition to light a fire at the end of a battle or long march so that anyone missing or lost during the action may find and reunite with their comrades. This watchfire will pay tribute to those who have since passed away.

It will also be an opportunity for the veterans to dispose of the flags collected by the state.

Those unable to deposit an old flag at the state dropoffs may have other options including collections by a nearby veterans post. The Town of Amherst hosts its own flag dropoff box. Residents should check with their local municipal governments to find out if and where similar dropffs are available.

The United States Flag Code lists several points about the proper display and treatment of the national symbol. Section 176 includes guidance for disposal: "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."

Homeowners may burn their worn out flags at home, by folding it into a triangle and placing it in a fire large enough to burn it. While doing so, it's recommended to offer a gesture of respect such as reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or a salute.

Nylon flags should not be burned but, rather, cut into four pieces but without dividing the blue field. Once the flag is cut, it's no lo longer considered a flag and may be placed in a container and disposed.