Giving Back: Local veteran planning appreciation event

Published 12:16 am Wednesday, May 18, 2016

RESERVE — Those who have not served in the U.S. military might not know the American flag is treated as a living thing.

Benny Robichaux shows reverence to the American Flag while holding one. Robichaux is spearheading a community flag retirement ceremony next month in Reserve to teach residents about the proper techniques and procedures needed to retire an American Flag.

Benny Robichaux is spearheading a community flag retirement ceremony next month in Reserve.

When the flag gets old and tattered, it must be disposed of in a respectful way.

Benny Robichaux, sergeant at-arms for American Legion Post 383, said in order to dispose of or retire an American flag, it must be burned a certain way. In order to teach the community more about the American flag, what it means to the country and, also, feed St. John the Baptist Parish residents, Robichaux said everyone is welcome to attend a flag retirement event June 11.

The program will begin at 2 p.m. at the Southeast Louisiana War Veterans Home in Reserve. American Legion Post 383, VFW Post 3337, local Boy and Eagle Scouts and St. John Young Marines are helping put on a special ceremony to honor the red, white and blue.

“We will have the flag presented as a living thing,” Robichaux said. “We will raise a new flag on the pole, lower it to half staff to honor the fallen and bring it back up. Then, we will take an hold the flag and retire it, along with a lot of other old flags that we have collected.”

Robichaux said the Boy Scouts would perform a 21-gun salute and play the bugle for the ceremony.

“The main purpose of the event is to educate people as to what the cost of the flag really is other than dollars and cents,” he said. “It’s been paid for in service and in blood, sweat and tears. All that goes into the history of the flag. On a personal level, this is a very emotional thing for me.”

Robichaux, who hopes to retired dozens of flags at the community event, said he wants attendees to see and understand the process.

“There is one flag that is going to represent all of the flags that are going to be retired,” he said. “This one particular flag is taken apart one stripe at a time by the Boy Scouts. The kids take the stripe, with one of the other flags donated, and go to the mic to say his piece then it will be burned.”

The stripes are cut up to the blue field. After the 13 strips have been cut out, one star from the blue field is cut and presented to someone important.

“After the star is cut, the blue field is folded and brought to the burn pit with a couple of other flags,” Robichaux said. “That indicates that the whole flag is burned. We will have Taps (playing) and a firing squad to render a salute. If that doesn’t make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, I don’t know what will.”

Incoming American Legion Post 383 Commander Allan Reynaud said a ceremony like this shows a level of respect for the Nation’s flag that most people don’t realize is due.

“It’s a teaching experience as much as anything else,” Reynaud said. “This is how we retire flags. The military has done it, the Boy Scouts do it but typically the public doesn’t really know much about it.  It’s a moving ceremony.

“Personally, for me, an event like this allows people to show their love of country. It shows respect for the country, the flag and the millions of men and women who serve in the U.S. military.”

The event is free for residents, but a $1 donation is being asked for, allowing contributors a chance to win a $100 Walmart gift card. The rest of the money collected helps fund American Legion programs.

Robichaux is also asking residents to bring a nonperishable food item to benefit the Ministry of Care food bank in LaPlace.

If residents have flags that need to be retired, Robichaux said he would gladly have them as part of the ceremony. They can be dropped off at his home at 215 Somerset Road in LaPlace, or residents can bring their flags before the event starts.