Flag Collection Box at Transfer Station Deemed Success

The flag that veterans fought for will continue to get a dignified retirement, thanks to the combined efforts of the town Transfer Station, Pinkerton Academy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1617 of Derry.

Lt. Cdr. Howie Steadman, head of the ROTC program at Pinkerton, and Carl Starosiak, commander of the local VFW, reported on the flag box’s progress last week.

The box was set up last year at the Transfer Station. Almost immediately it was stolen, recovered by Derry Police and reinstalled last summer.

“Since it’s been reinstalled, across from the weight scale, it has a more visible location,” Steadman said. “There’s someone there to keep an eye on it.” Also, Steadman said, there is better signage in the new location.

And this makes it easier for people retiring flags to find the receptacle. “We have received literally hundreds of flags since the move,” Steadman said. “The theft of the first box gave us visibility.”

Steadman said the VFW empties the box once a week and brings the flags back to the post for storage.

The two entities continue to work as a team, Steadman said, and if the box needs any maintenance the Junior ROTC takes care of it.

Starosiak said this year the box has resulted in a collection so far of 800 to 1,000 flags, or five bins full. Last year the box yielded 400, he said.

The flags are kept until a date near Flag Day, June 14, and then disposed of in a ceremony at the Post, he said.

“We cordon off the parking lot and the Chaplain opens with a prayer,” he said. “We unfold every flag on a table, take it to the fire pit, lay it on the fire pit and salute it before burning. We do that for every flag.” The event takes eight to 10 hours, Starosiak said.

“We started this several years ago and we just kept going,” Starosiak said. “If we didn’t, they’d all end up in the dump.”

Starosiak said the seed for the idea came from a veteran who worked at the Transfer Station and was upset about the way discarded flags were treated.