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Sun City Security Patrol treats flags with reverence

There’s a somber ceremony that’s performed twice a year by the Sun City Summerlin Security Patrol. It’s called flag retirement day, and it’s a highly respectful occasion, as you might expect. Equally important, it must be done in a proper manner when any flag of the United States becomes weather-beaten or otherwise tattered.

Traditionally, the first such occasion is held in May, in advance of Memorial Day, and with the assistance of Boy Scout Troop 912. The second ceremony, which involves only members of Security Patrol, occurs in late October, in advance of Veterans Day.

“The ceremony is a Sun City Security Patrol thing, and we take it very seriously, with all the respect that our flag deserves,” said longtime Security Patrol member Adrian Cole. He noted that both national holidays are days when a fair share of patriotism touches the hearts of most of us, and for good reasons.

According to Dorothy Macchio, the Patrol’s historian, the first flag retirement ceremony conducted in Sun City was performed jointly by Security Patrol and the Boy Scout troop on May 10, 2003.

So on or about Dec. 7 is as good a time as any to talk about how well-worn representations of Old Glory are being properly disposed in Summerlin. And for the benefit of anyone who doesn’t recall what happened Dec. 7, 1941, that was the day untold numbers of proudly displayed Stars and Stripes were unceremoniously destroyed, in addition to other havoc, during the sneak bombing attack on Pearl Harbor, which precipitated the start of U.S. involvement in World War II.

“We try to treat the retirement of flags with all the dignity it deserves,” explained Security Patrol Chief Dick Clark. The patrol consists of 235 Sun City residents who contribute their time, working four-hour shifts, to keep a constant eye on the community.

“People of Sun City know they can bring torn, tattered or weather-beaten flags to us for proper disposal,” Clark added. “We accumulate them and store them in our building. Then at every retirement ceremony we might have anywhere from 200 to as many as 400 tattered or torn flags. We burn them in an appropriate and solemn manner.”

“Appropriate” means that eight to 10 of the flags are burned at one time in an 8-foot barbecue grill while a recording of all four verses of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is played. Typically, the pledge to the flag is performed to start the ceremony, followed by several patriotic readings pertaining to Old Glory.

“When the Boy Scout troop comes for the spring flag retirement, we let them do most of the patriotic readings,” Clark said. He noted that nearly 80 people, including Sun City residents, Patrol members and Boy Scouts, usually attend the May ceremony. “We had about 40 Patrol members at the most recent ceremony, on Oct. 21,” he added. Refreshments of pizza and soda drinks were provided by the Patrol.

The ceremony has always been conducted in the Sun City community picnic area, just behind Desert Vista Community Center and diagonally opposite the offices of Security Patrol. The Patrol’s quarters are at the far end of the Desert Vista parking area, at 10362 Sun City Blvd.

“We want to make it known that we have the greatest respect for our flag, and as such we will accept American flags for retirement from anyone, regardless of whether they live in Sun City or anywhere else,” Clark emphasized.

He said flags that must be retired can be brought either to the Patrol’s main office, which is open 24 hours every day, or to any of its three substations, which are open from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. every day. Substations are at the entrances to Sun City, at Lake Mead and Sun City boulevards, Lake Mead and Del Webb boulevards, and Rampart and Del Webb boulevards.

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey. His most recent novel, “Double Play,” is available. Contact him at hjaffe@cox.net.

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