Several flags were retired in honor of Flag Day at the Ahwatukee Recreation Center Thursday evening, commemorating the 235th anniversary of the American flag’s adoption.

Holding small flags and paper roses handed out by the American Legion Post 64, nearly 50 people gathered to see “unserviceable” flags from around the Valley respectfully retired.

Ahwatukee resident Ted Schmelzer, 80, said when he was younger it was an honor to take down the family’s flag in the evenings and raise it again in the morning.

“With the younger generation it’s different now, I don’t think there is a better time than now to learn what it means to honor the flag,” said Schmelzer, who is an Air Force veteran.

Councilman Sal DiCiccio also attended the event, hand-in-hand with his two young daughters.

“I want them to understand that some people risk their entire lives for us to even come to events like this,” DiCiccio said.

Legion Cmdr. Peter H. Meier led the ceremony, mentioning that his post has collected more than 300 old flags from around the community. The legion receives them from all over the Valley and chooses the flags most worn, torn and faded to retire at the annual ceremony. The rest are then sent to Luke Air Force Base in Glendale for further disposal.

“We treat it as a living entity,” said Meier, of the high respect shown for the flag during the ceremony.

Respectful flag burning has served as a tradition since the 1940s, and continues to be an honorable and proper method of retirement, Meier said.

The flag was adopted by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777, seeking to promote unity.

Gov. Jan Brewer said in a statement this week that the flag is an “enduring symbol of freedom,” and reflects principles “our men and women in uniform continue to defend at home and abroad.”

The American Legion’s Post currently has about 145 members, and has hosted the Flag Day ceremony and reception for three years.

“We live in a special area, and in a special country,” DiCiccio added.

For more information on how to submit your old American flags to the legion, call the Ahwatukee Recreation Center at (480) 893-2549.

• Diana Martinez is freelancing this summer for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. Reach her at

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