METHUEN — While burning the American flag is generally considered unpatriotic, in reality it’s how the flag should be retired.
Section 8 of the Flag Rules and Regulations 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.”
That’s exactly what the city of Methuen did during their Pearl Harbor Day Flag Internment ceremony at Elmwood Cemetery on Dec. 7.
“This is the fifth ceremony to return American flags the proper way,” said Ed Curran, director of veteran affairs. “Today is the 65th Anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.”
Along with Dan Hardacre and Billy Laverriere, who tossed the tattered and worn flags into the towering flames, those in attendance got a history lesson about Pearl Harbor from Angus MacPherson, chaplain of VFW Post 8349.
“We all remember Dec. 7, 1941 as the bombing of Pearl Harbor,” MacPherson stated. “But the Japanese started training in 1937. On Dec. 7 we were expecting a fleet of 19 bombers, so when they came we thought it was our bombers and didn’t react.
“As President Roosevelt said, ‘This day will live on in infamy.’ History is real and we have to make sure the kids today learn about history.”
Kristina Habib and Jeniris Lopez of Methuen High School sang the national anthem and “God Bless America,” while Methuen High students Greg Smith and Nathan Pinciak ended the ceremony with the playing of “Taps.”
Later that evening, Mayor William Manzi and Curran honored the Methuen residents who have served in the military since Sept. 11, 2001.
Each veteran received a citation from the city and listened to Thomas G. Kelley, secretary of veterans services for Massachusetts.
“We have 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts and we are the only state in the union with a veterans agent in each of those cities,” Kelley said.
Kelley explained that it was appropriate to have the ceremony for the Methuen veterans because on Dec. 8, 1941, the recruiting stations were jammed with lines of young men and women enlisting in the various military branches. He added that after Sept. 11, the same thing happened.
“Everybody who wears a uniform is a volunteer,” Kelley said. “There is no draft.”
Cpl. Paul Valliere, an inactive Marine reservist, did two tours in Iraq during his four years of active duty. Valliere felt honored to be a part of the ceremony but had to leave the room after the playing of “Taps” because he was thinking of his friends who were killed in the line of duty.
“It means a lot. I don’t know how to explain it in words,” Valliere said. “But it really means a lot to me and my friends that didn’t make it back.”
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Roger Noel appreciated what the city had done because it helps him feel like they’re giving something back.
“When you’re away from your family you’re giving up so much,” Noel said.
Curran closed the evening by stating that if he missed anyone, he would like for them to come to his office in room 108 of the Searles Building.
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