Camping with the cub scouts at Alaflo is always a load of fun, and we always learn something. Caleb’s a Webelo now, so it’ll only be more so going forward.
Tonight, though, it was my turn for enlightenment.
As often happens, we ended the evening bonfire with a flag retirement ceremony. It’s always a solemn occasion for the scouts, to see our nation’s colors treated with honor as the flag’s time if service comes to an end.
Tonight, as the boy scouts, with our military and public safety personnel, added the pieces of the flag to the bonfire, the scout leading the ceremony requested that we honor the flag until it was completely destroyed, and then leave the amphitheatre area in silent reflection. Of course, you couldn’t really see the flag pieces all that well once they’re added to the fire, so “completely destroyed” becomes a relative judgment.
As usual, some folks started leaving when the last piece hit the flames. Others left a few minutes later. Others left when the flames died down. At one point, an honor guard came forward and formed a wall around the remnants of the bonfire, presumably to give the remaining audience the impression that the flag had been completely consumed. At this point, the rest of us started to leave.
As we left the amphitheatre area, I cast eyes back to the bonfire area, and I caught the barest hint of red, solid and unmoving amongst the flames and embers.
It struck me as rather profound that, however we might have given ourselves over to honoring this retired American flag, the flag had outlasted even us.
As a patriot, I’m not surprised in the least.