An American flag with only 48 stars was one of the more than 70 flags retired at a special ceremony Saturday. Another flag retired during the ceremony had flown over the Sonic on Ovilla Road during the Dec. 26 EF-3 tornado that ultimately damaged or destroyed more than 170 homes across northwestern Ellis County.

The flag retirement ceremony was held by members of the Sons of the American Legion Post 388 and Waxahachie Veterans of Foreign Wars Post with assistance from the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas Honor Guard, Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association and Waxahachie firefighters. The flags were collected from Red Oak, Ovilla, Midlothian and Waxahachie drop off locations.

Veteran Bob Osborne said the 48-star flag was the pattern he fought under. During World War II, he served onboard the U.S.S. Chester in the Pacific Theater. Being asked to help prepare the old flag for retirement was an honor, he said.

“I don't like to see people go around stomping on them,” he said. “That is what our country is all about, our independence and our flag.”

His father served during World War I, Osborne said, and his brother was a member of the Air Guard in the Atlantic during WWII. Showing respect for the flag is important to him, he said.

Once he was in another city and passed a florist’s shop.

“The flag was on the table and had stuff piled on top of it. I went right in there and told the man to take the flag off the table, and boy, he did,” Osborne said. “The flag is not a table cloth.”

The U.S. Flag Code states that when a flag is no longer in a condition fit to be displayed, it should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning it.

Following the Pledge of Allegiance and lowering of a retiring American flag for the final time, the method Boy and Girl Scouts use to retire the flag calls for the Canton, the blue field with the stars, to be cut from the stripes so the flag is no longer in the form of the American flag before it is burned.

It is important to respectfully retire and destroy the flag because of what the flag stands for, said Jim Steelman, region 5 representative of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association.

“It represents our country,” he said. “Until it is retired and burned, it still represents our country.”

The association had held its regularly scheduled meeting at the Waxahachie VFW post earlier that day, but decided to stay for the ceremony, he said.

“All of us being veterans, it's something we felt we should take part in,” Steelman said.

The Girl Scouts Honor Guard is made up of members of area troops who learn how to properly hold flag ceremonies including retirements, said leader Jessica Hallett. Her daughter Meredith Hallett and scout Destini Stroud assisted in the ceremony.

“You see a lot of people who don't really know the proper way to handle a flag. I decided I wanted to know how,” Meredith explained.

Veterans who attended the ceremony were encouraged to take home a grommet from one of the retired flags to attach to their keychain, a traditional way to honor the flag they served under, said Sons of the American Legion Post member Robert Sonnier. Sonnier helped organize the event in honor of the American Legion's birth day on March 15.

“I didn't serve under this flag because I had cancer at 15, but I'm still honored to serve our veterans,” he said, explaining his father had served in the U.S. Army Air Corp.

The post is planning to hold retirement ceremonies about every six months to prevent this many flags from needing to be retired at the same time in the future, Sonnier said. A separate ceremony will be held soon for the Texas flags that need to be retired, he said.

Flags that are too faded or frayed to be flown any longer can be dropped up at any U.S. Post Office, cooperating fire and police departments or at the Waxahachie VFW post located at 1405 N. Highway 35 E. in Waxahachie, he said.

Contact Bethany Kurtz at 469-517-1450 or email bkurtz@waxahachietx.com. Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BethanyKurtzMidloMirror or on Twitter @bethmidlomirror.