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Legionnaires show proper flag disposal

Members of the American Legion Odessa Post 147 visited Cecile Essrig Elementary School on Thursday to demonstrate the proper disposal of the American flag. The students assembled on the physical education courts behind the school for the ceremony.

Fifth-grader Christina Kah led the 1,008 students, many of whom were dressed in red, white and blue for the occasion, in the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Guidance counselor Tom Stentz (sporting white slacks, a blue shirt and red tie), introduced fifth-graders Brandon Moore, Sophia Craig, Jayson Burkette, Andrew Curtis and Ria-An Javier, who gave short presentations on the U.S. flag's significance and symbolism.

Post Commander Fred Tetlow then introduced the members of the post who participated in the ceremony: Frank Poscish, Fred Rich, Hank Binder, Bob Davis and Eric Keaton, the post's first member who is a Persian Gulf War veteran. Keaton served with the 16th Military Police Brigade, airborne out of Fort Bragg, N.C.

Tetlow explained the importance of disposing of American flags that have become old and tattered with dignity and respect. The flag disposal service began with a taped Call to the Colors bugle call. Rich, Keaton and Binder presented a flag to Tetlow, who in turn presented the flag to members of the school Safety Patrol.

The flag to be disposed of was draped over a metal frame and doused with lighter fluid. Then Tetlow gave the command "Attention," and the flag was burned while a bugle call was played. The students had been instructed to place their right hands over their hearts while the flag burned, and members of Post 147 rendered the regular hand salute because they were in uniform.

After the flag had burned, Tetlow gave the command to drop the salute.

Rich, senior vice commander of Post 147, said the flag's ashes and grommets will be buried. He also said the flag given to the post by Essrig Elementary will be flown over Post 147 before it is disposed of in a similar service.