Did you know that Miramar National Cemetery is the only National Cemetery with an Avenue of Flags? Just inside the entrance to the cemetery, it is hard to miss the 50 American Flags flying proudly day and night. The Avenue of Flags have been standing watch on the hallowed grounds since January 2012 – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The Support Foundation is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the flags, poles, lanyards, and lighting. With all the wear and tear sustained from the constant coastal breezes, twice a year, just prior to Memorial Day and Veterans Day, the Support Foundation uses donated funds to replace all 50 American Flags.
The laws for how to dispose of flags can be found in U.S. Flag Code known as United States Code (U.S.C.) Title 4 Chapter 1. Section 8(k) 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.”
In earlier times, most American flags were made of cotton or wool material, and burning is still the preferred way to properly dispose of that material. Today, flags are often made of nylon or other petroleum-based materials. Burning them can release hazardous gases and toxins into the air. In some states, it is even illegal to burn nylon, so adhering to the Flag Code puts you in direct violation of the law. Flags made from nylon and other synthetics can be safely buried in the ground. Here in San Diego, there’s another option to dispose of flags in a respectful manner.
A local military supporter, Dee Folse of Vista, CA, decommissions the worn flags by repurposing them so they can live forever. When a flag arrives at his home, he carefully makes five cuts on each side of the 50 stars. Each star is cut into the shape of a pentagon and then put into a small plastic bag that includes a note. That note reads, “I am part of our American Flag that has flown over the USA. I can no longer fly. The sun and winds caused me to become tattered and torn. Please carry me as a reminder that you are not forgotten.” Every day, Dee carries handfuls of these packaged stars in his pocket. When he meets a veteran, he gives them one of the special stars, so they know their service and sacrifice have not been forgotten.
If you have flags to be decommissioned, please contact Dee Folse at (760) 889-2453 to arrange delivery of your unusable flag. If you would like to donate to help maintain the Avenue of Flags, visit our website at www.miramarcemetery.org to donate now.