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Scouts gathering old flags to retire

After September 11, American flags bloomed red, white and blue across the landscape with a renewed patriotism that had not been seen in this country for decades. The young ladies of Junior Girls Scout Troop 118 took part in that patriotism and enjoyed seeing Old Glory fly in such abundance. But as the year went on, they began to notice that many of the flags were beginning to suffer from wind and weather.

"It was sad," said Heather Edson, 12, a student at Straughn. Heather, daughter of Eddie and Cindy Edson, has been active in scouting since her brownie days, five years ago. She is also the student council secretary at Straughn, a member of 4-H and a cheerleader.

"It made me feel like people didn't care," said Hannah Carter, who lives with Martha and James Carter. She is also a cheerleader and a member of 4-H. She is the honor club president and on the basketball team.

The young ladies stay active, both in school and out, but they, with the rest of their troop, felt compelled to do more. The more they saw the ragged and wind-worn flags, the more they wanted to see them taken care of - replaced with new ones, and retired in the proper ceremony.

"It's time to get a new flag up and keep the patriotism going," said Sheila Daugherty, who leads the troop with the assistance of Barbara Pilotte, Sara Odom and Nancy Blackmon.

For some time now, the scouts have been approaching business owners with worn out flags and offering to perform the retirement ceremony for them - an offer usually taken up with enthusiasm. Now, they are extending the service to all those who have flags in need of retiring. At the Visual Arts League's Fall Festival next Saturday, Oct. 5,

the girls will be on the Square from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

to receive flags at their patriotic booth.

They will perform the opening flag ceremony at 9 a.m., and will spend the day handing out patriotic tattoos, stickers and balloons. They will have soft drinks and door prizes.

"Most important - if you have an American flag that needs retiring, bring it to us so we can retire it with dignity," said Daugherty.

The girls are working toward their Bronze Award - the highest a junior scout can earn.

"The awards show we have made a promise to help others, improve our community and world, and become the best we can be," said Daugherty.

On their way to getting the Bronze Award, the girls had to choose their community service project - collecting the flags for retirement. They earned two badges related to the project and their Junior Aid badge by working with younger troops.

"We learned to sign the Pledge of Allegiance" said Heather. "I thought that was so neat."

Part of the "God and Family" program, that feat will also earn them a religious pin.

The flag collection and retirement are the final steps to earning the Bronze Award.

The girls have performed the flag retirement ceremony for civic groups such as the Luncheon Pilot Club and the Civitan Club. They have not set a date for the retirement of the flags they are now collecting, but will use the opportunity to teach younger scouts the proper way to retire a flag, which involves cutting it into strips and burning it.

Flags can also be dropped off at the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce on the By-Pass and at Covington County Bank.

The scouts also expressed their appreciation for various sponsors and donors, including: Coca-Cola of Dothan for the drinks; Shaw Industries and the Andalusia Star-News for door prizes; and the Luncheon Pilot Club for the donation that allowed them to purchase to stickers, tattoos and balloons they will be giving away. They also thanked the newspaper and WAAO for announcing the event and everyone who allowed them to post flyers.

The Girls Scouts are an agency of the United Fund of Andalusia.