KILLEEN — For many years, the Boy Scouts of American have taken on the duty of properly retiring the nation’s flag when it becomes unservicable.
And scouting troops from the Killeen area have the perfect place to conduct those ceremonies with an official retirement site at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery.
According to Title 4, U.S. Code 8k concerning respect for the flag, when a United States flag has become tattered and torn or unserviceable in any form, it needs to be properly retired.
Retiring the flag usually involves either burning or burial, according to Gordon Plumlee, a scouting master with Boy Scout Troop 287 from Killeen and an Eagle Scout. The ceremonies are usually conducted by Boy Scout troops or veteran organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars or Disabled American Veterans.
The retirement site was the Eagle Scout project of Sean Cook and was started in 2009, said Plumlee, who retired from the Army as a major. It took more than a year to set up the burn pit in a way that allowed for proper drainage during inclement weather, set up the walkways and ensure the entire site was compliant for people with disabilities.
According to a Herald story on the site’s dedication in June 2009, it took Cook roughly six months to raise $6,500, enough to cover the entire project’s cost.
“All we had was a dirt pit that we had dug up,” Cook said during the dedication. “They needed a better place to do this because it is the best flag in the world.”
Both Cook’s father and grandfather served at Fort Hood.
The good thing about the retirement site, Plumlee says, is that any organization which needs to retire a flag can use the location at any time just by calling the cemetery.
The only problem is, there are only four benches available for visitors to use in viewing those ceremonies, said retired Army Col. Gene Wentworth, an Eagle Scout himself who was enlisted by Plumlee to assist in making the retirement site more viable for viewing.
“We would like to get at least 13 benches out there, one for each of the original 13 Colonies,” Wentworth said. “It would allow for more people to have the ability to actually witness the proper retirement of our flag.”
Because of the weather — and the fact the site is outdoors — the benches the site needs are made of grey granite and cost approximately $2,250 each, Wentworth said.
He also said that not only does the hope the retirement site will reach the needed number of benches, but by reaching out, more organizations will know the site is there and available.
“And maybe more people will come out to see how we properly retire a flag,” Wentworth said. “It’s a wonderful civic lesson.”
Wentworth added that units interested in viewing the ceremonies — especially those with high numbers of junior soldiers who may have never seen one — were more than welcome to call either himself or Plumlee to set it up.
For more information or to donate a bench, call Wentworth at 254-698-6074 or Plumlee at 254-290-2309.
Organizations wishing to utilize the site can call the office of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery at 254-616-1770. Flags cannot be burned if a county-wide burn ban is in effect.
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