HANOVER TOWNSHIP — Saturday is Flag Day and there are ways the stars and stripes will be honored all over our area.
There was also a special ceremony on Friday in Luzerne County. We have seen the proper retirement of flags in the past through burning, but this was something new, the actual burial of those ashes.
It looked like a typical military burial at Oak Lawn Cemetery near Wilkes-Barre with an honor guard, a hearse, and an urn sitting upon a pedestal ready for placement in the ground.
But this is a burial for Old Glory. Inside are the ashes of thousands of U.S. flags.
“This is the first time we did anything like this and it’s very nice,” said Tom Paul, Ashley American Legion honor guard member.
When flags flying over veterans’ graves reach their end, they are collected and properly burned.
Kniffen O’Malley Funeral Home provided the urn to bury their ashes.
“We held on to the cremated remains. We got the urn and figured it would be nice to do a ceremony and give them a final resting place,” said Brian Leffler of Kniffen O’Malley Funeral Home.
A flag that’s still intact became a part of this ceremony, too. It was draped over a World War II vet’s casket. His wife recently died, and she left it with a friend who made it part of this tribute.
“It feels fantastic. It was a great ceremony. I’m so glad something like this, very respectful and solemn, is being done with this because she was the nicest, sweetest lady and she would have loved this very much,” said Martha Iben of Newport Township.
That flag didn’t get buried now, but just like at any other funeral, the ashes of the others did. Pallbearers and all were there to pay special tribute.
“That’s the only way the flag should be put away in a final resting place like this,” Paul added.
There were flags lining the route through the cemetery to the ceremony. Everything about this was to make the point that this is more than a piece of cloth.
“It gets to me. It brings back so many memories of the people I was with that didn’t come back and I’m very fortunate that I did,” said World War II veteran Arthur Prandy.
Prandy has been in the Ashley American Legion honor guard for 310 military funerals now including this one, seeing the flag he fought for laid to rest.
“When you’re overseas and you happen to go somewhere and you see an American flag, it just fills you with pride,” said Prandy.
The veterans we talked with said the most simple thing you can do for Flag Day, is just fly a flag on Saturday.