Zephyrhills Troop 72 honors military and national symbol
By Kyle LoJacono
More than 30 people, three of whom served in the military, watched Boy Scout Troop 72 retire 50 flags at Shepard Park to honor Memorial Day.
Among those troops present were Elena McCullough, John Witzke and Rick Hillman.
“It was a very good ceremony,” said Zephyrhills resident Hillman. “I enjoyed it very much.”
Witzke, of Zephyrhills, simply said “beautiful” when asked what he thought of the evening.
McCullough, of Wesley Chapel, added on the ceremony, “It was wonderful. I don’t even have the words to describe it. It is so great to see these scouts showing such respect for our flag.”
Witzke served in the Navy from 1972-1985, which included part of the Vietnam War. McCullough was in the Coast Guard for 24 years and is now running for Florida House of Representatives District 61.
Hillman is still an active Army reservist and is part of central command in Tampa. He reached the rank of major and earned his Eagle Scout award in 1959 with a troop in New York.
“It brings back memories of doing more than one myself,” Hillman said of watching the ceremony. “It’s an honor to see young people taking the time to show such respect to the flag on Memorial Day.”
Witzke was also in Boy Scouts and reached the rank of Life, one level below Eagle Scout.
“To me it is special to see so many young men out here honoring the flag,” Witzke said. “It’s very special and it makes me feel good about the future of this country.”
Many of the scouts were just as impressed with the troops.
“This was the first public flag retirement I’ve done and it was amazing to see so many people come out and watch,” said assistant senior patrol leader and Star Scout Michael Gallar. “I was surprised to see so many and it was very cool to see the soldiers come out and witness it.”
Troop senior patrol leader and Life Scout Brandon Meier had done one flag retirement before with his ROTC unit, but said this was the largest one he has been a part of.
“It went very well and actually went better than I expected,” Meier said. “It was great to see the veterans come out and that really made it special for me.”
Meier, 17, and Gallar, 16, both said they want to join the Navy after high school.
The ceremony lasted about one hour. Each of the 50 flags was folded tightly and walked slowly toward the fire pit. The flags were then unfolded, presented to the audience and then placed into the pit.
Scoutmaster Greg Hilferding is also an Eagle Scout and said he had never been a part of such a large flag retirement either.
“I’m so proud of the scouts for coming up with the idea to have the ceremony to honor Memorial Day,” Hilferding said. “They did a really great job.
“It went very well,” Hilferding added. “I’m very proud of how well they all did. They treated the night with respect and dignity and did me proud.”
The United States Flag Code states, “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” Some of those conditions unfitting of display include holes, tears or faded colors.
Goin’ Postal provided refreshments during the evening. The business accepts old U.S. flags each July, which is where the troop got many of the now retired U.S. symbols. The troop also receives flags throughout the year from people who want them to be retired respectively.
The troop had more than 100 flags to retire, but Hilferding said it would take too long to do them all on one evening.