Disposal of flags mistaken as flag-burning protest; motorists yell at youths


A group of youths got a life lesson on Veterans Day when their solemn ceremony in front of an Edison Park church to dispose of worn-out American flags apparently was misconstrued by several passers-by as a flag-burning protest.

“We’re doing the ceremony and all of sudden people are rolling down their windows and honking,” said Janice Meintzer, adviser to the Venture Crew 9955, which is affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America. “People thought we were burning the flag in effigy.”

One woman told the group to “go to hell,” while others dropped “f-bombs,” Meintzer said. “We, of course, we’re taken aback,” she said.

The U.S. Flag Code calls for “unfit” flags to be disposed in a respectful manner, preferably by burning.

Venture Crew is a co-ed youth development program for those age 14 to 20.

Members participate in a variety of activities, including camping, hiking and archery, and each crew also performs community service work. The Edison Park crew conducts about four flag disposal ceremonies a year.

Normally the ceremony is held in the parking lot of the Edison Park Lutheran Church, 6626 N. Oliphant Ave., but for the most recent ceremony, the fire pit was set up in front of the church. The flags are inspected prior to the ceremony to make sure that they are no longer useable, and while each flag is burning, members stand at attention.

After the ceremony, the group’s members discussed how people assumed that they were up to no good instead of taking time to get a closer look and ask questions. “We’re not giving anyone a chance. We’re always jumping to conclusions,” Meintzer said.

The fact that the ceremony occurred three days after a contentious presidential election may have contributed to the problem, Meintzer said. The negative reactions were especially unfortunate given how dignified the ceremony is and how those running it are trying to show respect for the country in a nonpolitical way, she said.

Periodically the group sets up collection boxes for flags at area businesses, and they also can be dropped off at the church, which is a Venture Crew sponsor.