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AFROTC cadets, cadre perform flag retirement ceremony

When you buy a new U.S. flag, what do you do with the old one? There's a special ceremony that marks the end of the life of an American flag. New Mexico State University's Air Force ROTC is willing to perform the flag retirement ceremony for anyone who asks.



Students from New Mexico State University's Air Force ROTC program participate in a flag retirement ceremony outside Young Hall on Feb. 17. (NMSU photo by Donyelle Kesler)

NMSU's AFROTC cadets and cadre gathered Feb. 17 outside Young Hall on the NMSU campus to honor the retirement of the symbol of our nation's freedom.

"This is the ceremonial way of retiring a flag after it's worn out and tattered," Cadet Col. J.D. Hutchins said. "It's a way to honor the flag that's been flown for a number of years."

Flags that are brought in are retired by NMSU's AFROTC once a semester, according to AFROTC Lt. Col Stephen Groll. The group has retired flags from various departments around campus as well as from city buildings.

The ceremony begins with the Color Guard in full uniform. They present the flag to be retired and the announcer leads the ceremony as the flag is cut strip by strip and burned.

"You cut each strip along the seam and burn each one individually, in honor of the first 13 colonies," Hutchins said. "The blue square with the stars stays together and represents the unity of the country and is burned last."

"We always do the retirement ceremony in front of our cadets," Groll said. "A lot of our practices in our program are based on honoring and respecting the flag and the ceremonies give cadets the opportunity to participate in that."

If you have a flag you would like to retire, please contact the AFROTC office at 575-646-2136.