Seal Beach Yacht Club partners with Cub Scouts for flag retiring program

Boaters with worn American flags can bring them to Captain’s Locker in Long Beach for proper retirement and purchase a new one with a portion of the proceeds donated to local Cub Scout Pack 116.

SEAL BEACH—From flying proud to spawning new life, in 2018 Seal Beach Yacht Club respectfully retired 47 American flags with the help of local Cub Scout Pack 116 and several other partners, turning the ashes into compost to fuel the patient garden at Veteran’s Affairs Hospital in Long Beach.
Seal Beach YC this year is again coordinating a program with Cub Scout Pack 116 to respectfully retire worn and torn flags and raise funds for the local Cub Scouts.

“The Seal Beach Yacht Club had a flag retiring in 2018 and I was so impressed with the program, as Commodore I wanted to support it again,” Said Seal Beach YC 2020 Commodore Laura Ellsworth.

Worn American flags of any size can be donated at Captain’s Locker at 194 N Marina Dr., Long Beach through June 15. Captain’s Locker is also selling new 3-foot by 5-foot flags as a fundraiser for the local Cub Scouts. Seal Beach YC said the flags for sale are durable, top quality, marine-use flags with a suggested retail of $55. Captain’s Locker is selling them for $40 plus tax, with a donation of $6.50 going to the scouts for every purchase.

Seal Beach YC member Joan Palango, who helped organize the program, said flag size was one of the biggest lessons of 2018. She said they sold 12-inch by 18-inch flags the first year but only had one sale. She said they found the majority flags retired were 3-foot by 5-foot, which is the size they decided to sell this year.

“My biggest hope is we legitimately get more participation in retiring worn flags and purchasing flags from Captain’s Locker so we have a good contribution for the scouts,” Palango said.

Once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, flags can also be dropped off at Seal Beach YC, Sun Newspapers and the Long Beach Marine Bureau office.
Flags should be replaced when they become faded, torn or badly soiled and should be retired in a dignified way. Palango said the idea for the event came about when several club members had flags to retire but weren’t sure the proper way to do it. She herself, she had just returned from cruising around the world and also had several flags she needed to retire.

“There’s a lot of ways you can do this but I wanted to make it meaningful and special for the club,” Palango said.

Palango began researching and connected with Cub Scout Pack 116, which has some ties to the yacht club; Grant Recker is a member of the Cub Scouts and was part of the Seal Beach YC junior sailing program in 2018. The Boy Scouts have a long history of properly retiring flags and the Cub Scout pack’s leadership was very supportive of the program.

“We’re really involved with trying to do anything to honor the veterans and the yacht club is so supportive of the scouts,” said Mary Recker, who is Cub Scout Pack 116’s Webelos year one den leader and a Seal Beach YC member.

Once COVID-19 restrictions start easing, Seal Beach YC will host a series of ceremonies as part of the flag retiring. On their website, the Cub Scouts state the traditional method of retirement is to incinerate the flag, but with a very specific process. It should be cut up with scissors or shears in a methodical manner, with the blue star field never cut.

Palango said the format will be similar to what they did in 2018, with the first ceremony held at a club meeting – she is hopeful it can be held at their June meeting. The 2018 ceremony involved several Cub Scouts presenting and Veteran’s Affairs Hospital Chaplain George Vogel blessing several pairs of scissors, which would be used by the older Cub Scouts to cut the flags. Palango said Vogel commented in his 32 years of being a Chaplain at the VA it was the first time he’d blessed scissors.

“I didn’t know how to properly retire a flag, so for them, learning this at this age is nice,” Recker said.

In 2018, a second ceremony followed a few days later at the Sea Scout facility in Long Beach – one of the few locations in Alamitos Bay where you are allowed to have an open fire. The Scouts followed with another script explaining the process and the significance of each color of the flag.

“We shouldn’t be sad about the retirement of our friend. We are not burning him in anger; we are only releasing his spirit so that he can continue to serve us in our thoughts,” part of the script read.

Seal Beach YC Chaplain Joe Negron gave a blessing reverent to the flag and the process and then the flags were retired. The blue star field portions of the flags were donated to the Orange County Quilters Guild in Anaheim. The Guild has a proud history of making quilts for the VA out of the blue star field.

Palango said they needed something to do with the ashes and learned the patient garden at the VA hospital was looking for ashes for their compost to help grow eggplants.

“I called and he says ‘you know we were just talking about this the other day, is that we have an eggplant that’s having an issue and one of our vets told us if we had some ashes, it would help the eggplant grow better,’” Palango said. “So I’m like okay, meant to be.”

The ashes will again be donated to the VA to contribute to the VA patient garden.

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