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St. Paul’s flag retired with full honors

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by Trisha Ingalls

BARTON — When St. Paul’s Catholic School Principal Joanne Beloin realized it was time for a new flag, she didn’t know she would also get a full ceremony to go along with it.

On May 24, at the start of the school day, students were able to witness and participate in a flag retirement ceremony conducted by the James Cardinal Gibbons Assembly fourth degree honor guard, with members from Newport, Troy, and Orleans.

George Piette, comptroller for the assembly and former district master for the state of Vermont Knights of Columbus, said flag retirement ceremonies usually happen on Flag Day, June 14, but he said they were happy to be doing it for the school.

The ceremony took place outside the school, with all students participating. All, even the youngest children, stood quietly and respectfully through the entire 30-minute ceremony.

Three seventh-grade boys ran the old flag up the pole, where it was saluted.  The Pledge of Allegiance was recited by all, then a prayer for St. Paul’s school.

Then the national anthem was sung, and Captain Normand Raymond said a prayer, which asked for unity of all 50 states, wisdom, guidance, and a covering over all for challenges faced as a nation and as individuals.

“This flag has served us well,” Mr. Piette said, before giving its history.

“Retiring the flag,” he said, “does not mean we simply drop the flag into the fire.  Instead, the flag, like a fallen soldier, will be properly encased and prepared for cremation and burial.”

He requested that all remain silent.

“The blue field,” he recited, “our union, is the point of honor.  The upper corner of the flag’s own right.  The symbolism of the right hand goes far back in antiquity, when it was the weapon hand.  Raising the right hand free of any weapon meant peace.  It became a salute, a way of giving praise and honor.  The union is blue, representing the night sky with stars forming a new and glorious constellation.

“There is one star for each state in our union.  It is said the point of honor of our flag was made from the blue cloth belonging to a captain in the continental army.

“The 13 stripes stand for the original 13 colonies, which are Massachusetts, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and New Jersey.

“The white stands for purity.

“The third stripe, the red, stands for courage.

“The fourth stripe: ‘give me liberty or give me death.’

“The fifth stripe: ‘one if by land, two if by sea.’

“The sixth stripe:  ‘We the people of the United States in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provided for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution of the United States of America.’

“The seventh stripe: ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.  They are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.  Among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’

“The eighth stripe:  ‘Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’

“The ninth stripe:  ‘Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or press.’

“The tenth stripe:  ‘Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation.’

“The eleventh stripe:  ‘The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.’

“The twelfth stripe:  ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’

“The thirteenth stripe: ‘One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.’”

Then three more students took the old flag down and folded it carefully.  It was placed in a small casket for that purpose, and the students sang a hymn as the brazier was lit and the casket placed on top.

Students had also brought flags from home that need to be retired, and they will be retired on Flag Day.  Then three more students put the new flag up, concluding the ceremony.

Principal Beloin said she was pleased with the ceremony.  “To be a member of the community,” she said, “and the respect we instill in our students for our veterans and America; love of God, love of America, love of our country, so it was very nice to see how absolutely serious they took this.  I was very impressed with them being able to stand here that long and be part of the ceremony.

“I’m grateful to this crew, many of whom are veterans.  All I asked for was a new flag, and they brought all this, and it was a wonderful experience.”

One of the youngest students was curious about what happens next.

“A student asked what happens to the ashes,” Ms. Beloin said, “and Mr. Piette said that we could bury them here on our school property.”

There will be another flag retirement ceremony on June 14, at St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Newport.

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