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Perham students learn about and help with official flag disposal

The Dent American Legion Post 148 visited St. Paul's Lutheran School on Wednesday, Sept. 14 to teach students about official flag disposal through participation in the ceremony.

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A member of the Dent American Legion Post 148 hands a flag to an elementary student for disposal.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus
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A group of elementary students sits near the parking lot at St. Paul's School for the flag disposal presentation.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus
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A member of the American Legion Post 148 shows an elementary student how to hold the flag without it touching the ground.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

PERHAM — Once an American flag becomes faded, soiled, torn or old, it's often handed over to a group like the Dent American Legion Post 148. Once a year, the legion disposes of flags in a special ceremony meant to honor them, and this year, they shared that event with students at St. Paul's Lutheran School on Wednesday, Sept. 14.

"A lot of these kids have never seen (a flag disposal ceremony) before," said Dorvin Wendt, a member of the Dent American Legion. "It's always new for them, and they always enjoy doing it."

Wendt believes that it's important for kids to see how the flags are disposed, and doing so at a school is a good educational opportunity. Henry Ditterich, another legion member, agreed and emphasized that it's important for kids to see what services legion members provide.

The ceremony started with a presentation about how old flags often end up in the legion's hands. Then, a school religious leader joined in to share a Bible passage and lead attendees in prayer.

Pamphlets of lyrics in hands, school faculty and legion members led students in singing "You're a Grand Old Flag." After the song, all the kids were told to cover their ears. Gunfire was coming, fired away from the crowd and into the air by legion members in salute of the flag.

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A member of the American Legion Post 148 places an American flag into a fire pit.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus
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Elementary students line up to give old flags to enter the fire pit.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

Class by class, lines then formed next to the table of flags as the legion began to light a fire pit for disposal. The Perham Fire Department stood off to the side, ready to step in and intervene if the fire grew out of control.

Legion members handed flags off, student by student, showing them how to hold them so they didn't touch the ground. Then, each kid handed their flag off to a different legion member, who placed it in the fire.

Smiles were seen on kids' faces as they chattered about the event with one another. As a prize for their participation, each received a temporary tattoo from the Perham Fire Department.

"Today was new for me too," said Ditterich, who'd never attended a flag disposal ceremony, like many of the kids at the event. "It's great."

Elizabeth (she/her), 23, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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