US Flag

A Simple Flag Retirement Ceremony

The United States Flag Code states, “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem of display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” Some people will say that you must do it this way or that way, but according to the Flag Code, it just needs to be done with dignity.

This simple ceremony is appropriate for use with Cub Scouts. Take some time beforehand to explain that this is a dignified ceremony and they should try to stay as quiet and respectful as possible during it. It is a very short ceremony, but it probably won’t seem that way to young Cub Scouts.

I plan to do a flag retirement ceremony with my Webelos den when we are working on our Citizen activity badge.

Flag Retirement Ceremony (Simple)

This simple ceremony is appropriate to teach Cub Scouts how to retire a US flag which has become too worn for service.


US flag which is no longer suitable for display

fire, prepared ahead of time


MC: We have come together to dispose of a flag which is no longer serviceable. This flag has served as a reminder of our nation and those who have defended our freedom. It has served us well.

MC: The United States Flag Code states: “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem of display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

MC: Please bring the flag forward and display it one last time.

Two Scouts bring the flag forward, unfold it, and hold it so it is properly displayed to the audience. If the flag has a special significance or history, it should be mentioned.

MC : Please join me in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Say the Pledge of Allegiance

MC: Please fold the flag.

The Scouts fold the flag properly. Young Scouts might need assistance from a leader.

MC: We ask that everyone maintain a respectful silence as this flag is retired. Please retire the flag.

A leader places the flag carefully in the fire. The audience waits in silence until the flag is completely consumed by the fire.

MC: Thank you for joining us for this solemn ceremony. God bless America!

20 Responses to A Simple Flag Retirement Ceremony

  1. love April 19, 2012 at 1:22 PM #


  2. becky reed June 8, 2012 at 5:33 PM #

    how would you handle multiple (15) flags to retire??

    • Scouter Mom June 9, 2012 at 7:35 AM #

      Burn them one at a time. Wait until the one in the fire has been completely consumed before you add another. We usually do multiple flags. It doesn’t take as long as you might think.

      • john March 23, 2018 at 7:36 AM #

        but the fire gets really hot

    • john g sheehan June 1, 2015 at 6:07 PM #

      15 pairs of scouts or three ceremonies

  3. Ellen September 2, 2012 at 7:51 PM #

    We are new to the scouts and our ceremony is next week. This experience and meaning will be unforgettable and we are looking forward to it.
    Will the scout earn an emblem for this?

    • Marlin Bartholomew April 7, 2017 at 10:34 AM #

      Usually after the fire has cooled we retrieve the brass grommets from the ashed and brush then clean. The Scouts who retired the flag are allowed to wear the grommet on a paracord necklace.

  4. Scouter Mom September 4, 2012 at 9:14 AM #

    There is no special emblem that I am aware of, but it might help them with requirements, depending on what rank they are. See the list at the bottom of the article.

  5. Calapooia Scouter September 18, 2012 at 12:07 PM #

    Great ceremony – but keep in mind that a folded flag will take longer to burn. And please be sure to read the Guide to Safe Scouting, for use of fires and fire starters (chemicals). Keep it safe, have lots of fun!

  6. Debbie Gamble November 1, 2012 at 10:42 PM #

    Just what I needed for Webelos den meeting next week. Thank you!

  7. Frank Giels November 3, 2012 at 1:03 PM #

    We have witnessed two retirement ceremonies in the last month. The first was conducted by our long time scoutmaster at an overnighter in Metairie, La. The second at our SE La. Council fall encampment at Salmen Scout Reservation in South Miss. It was amazing to witness, and with 1000 or so cub scouts and that many more parents and leaders, you could have heard a pin drop as the giant flag was retired. Truly a humbling and patriotic memory. The scoutmaster at the first said the fire must be allowed to burn itself out, and stayed up most of the night tending it. The reading of “I am your flag” at the second was a true educational and emotional experience for all.

  8. Frank Giles November 3, 2012 at 1:04 PM #

    spelled my name wrong…oops

  9. Frank Baum November 8, 2012 at 9:33 AM #

    Also remember to have the Scouts stand far enough back when burning colors made of man-made materials — far enough back, keeping them upwind, that they don’t breathe the noxious fumes produced.

  10. Kristen March 4, 2013 at 4:30 PM #

    What about a state flag? Anyone have any clues? We asked for donations of flags from the fire dept and they gave both US and CA flags. Also, for anyone planning a ceremony, I called our local VFW and they are sending veterans out to help with the ceremony and to speak about the flag. I think it will be really nice.

  11. Bill March 8, 2014 at 1:06 PM #

    Our pack has any veterans (leaders or parents) that are present, help with the ceremony.

  12. John Cutrone March 1, 2016 at 5:35 PM #

    Retired US Navy Chief looking for a simple way to retire our flag with the grandkids. This is perfect. Thanks

  13. Ben May 17, 2016 at 10:47 AM #

    You may want to check out Retire the Stripes, they offer a flag retirement kit you can order and then just ship off in the mail, this predominately for people where it’s tough to get a burn permit or something.

  14. Faith February 10, 2017 at 2:47 PM #

    GREAT it is simple, respectful, and educational! Thanks

  15. Scouter Donn May 12, 2017 at 3:36 PM #

    As a life long scouter this is one of my favorite services to scouting, so I will share my 411 as people have shared with me. Remember this is a flag retirement service, not a ceremony. Remember that you are coming together to RETIRE this flag, not dispose of it. Also we need to explain to the audience that we are not burning the flag in disrespect as most people see on television.
    Lastly, if you are a scout unit and you do the Baden-Powell ashes opening fire ceremony you are not supposed to collect the ashes of a campfire with a retired flag in it, though it is not “law” and I think it adds to the respect of the ashes.
    Keep the honor and spirit alive in this!

  16. scouter July 12, 2017 at 10:30 AM #

    I believe you have to cut it too

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