Drop-off box for retired American flags ensures they receive the respect they deserve
An appropriate salute to patriotism
–One of the most sincere forms of respect for our country is to proudly display the stars and stripes. Through my drives downtown Paso Robles and through our neighborhoods, I am proud to see more flags than during the most recent times in our nation’s history. There are several commemorative days ahead: Armed Forces Day – May 15, Memorial Day – May 31, and Flag Day – June 14. Once an American flag has served its best purpose, there is a proper way to honor it.
There is a metal container for retired flags located on the corner of 13th and Paso Robles Street. It was donated by the Paso Robles Elks Lodge in 2013 and was fabricated and installed by North County Welding and Iron Works. Property owner and businessman David Kudija says, “Each year, there are over 1,200 flags deposited in the retirement box. I stopped counting in September of 2019 when I reached 10,000 flags.”
Paso Robles resident Henry Schmitz empties the flag container every week or so when the flags are visible near the opening. A sentiment shared on a local social media group PRotect Paso by LeeAnn Harkey conveys her appreciation. “The flag I turned in belonged to my 94-year-old Dad and was well tattered and torn. Lord knows how old it was. I’m so glad that Old Glory will be handled with care and dignity.” The flag burning ceremony is carried out by the American Legion. The ashes are allowed to mingle in the soil of the field where the honorable ceremony takes place.
The flag collection box is an outgrowth of a project that David got involved with through the Scouts. A suggestion from a fellow Scouter directed David to the website “Stars for Our Troops.” A woman in Troy, New York, with the help of the Getty Flag Company began collecting stars from worn flags. She put them in a bag with a card that said, “I am a part of our American flag. I have become faded and worn. I am no longer fitting to be a symbol of our country. Please carry me to know that you are not forgotten.” The stars and the card are handed out to service members and veterans to thank them for their service. She thought it was a great project and needed worn flags from which to harvest the stars. That was the beginning of a life of collecting and retiring flags.
David’s sense of patriotism comes from his life experience of traveling the world. He adds, “I have had the privilege to travel in a handful of countries throughout the world. Through these travels, I have learned about what a great way of life we have in this country. I believe that this wonderful way of life is a direct result of those who put on the uniform and fought for and continue to defend our freedoms.
David has a compassionate dedication to the local Boy Scouts. “The best times I’ve had with my son while he was growing up where the times we spent in Scouting. I helped him along many trails in his youth as we hiked through the Sierra mountains. Through our adventures, we forged a very strong relationship. These days, he helps me through my trails. I have found that Scouting is a tremendous program for teaching self-confidence, decision-making, leadership, safe outdoor skills, and the ability to work as a team to get a job done.
“I can think of no better way to set up a child for failure than to cater to his every need for 18 years, make all the decisions and tell him what to do and then pat him on the back and tell him to go have fun in college,” he continued. “Sending a youngster out as a Scout first on weekends, then for weeks at a time to get along with his peers and figure things out on his own is a wonderful way to teach how to make good decisions and take care of himself.”
Local Scout troops help to proudly display the colors downtown and at the local cemetery on Veteran’s Day and Flag Day; truly examples of integrity and honor for their country.