Retire the Flag Program: Honoring Our Heroes

By: Aurora Castiglia
Saturday, April 14, 2018

At Lakeside Memorial Funeral Home, we have a service very near to our hearts called the Retire the Flag program. Through this program, we accept worn US Flags from the community and use them to honor our veterans as they are laid to rest. From the flag that is being honored, we harvest a star to present to the family and loved ones of the veteran. I interviewed senior funeral director, Brandi Reed (BR), about this program and how it’s affected the people she has met.


What is the significance of the Retire the Flag program for our veterans?

BR: The Retire the Flag program allows for two noble actions to take place. The first is to provide a place for persons who are respectful of the United States flag to respectfully retire a flag once it has fallen into disrepair and give that flag one final purpose. The second is to give each Veteran, whether cremated or buried, one last honor at their final resting place by having a flag draped over them as they are laid to rest.


How does someone in the community go about donating a flag to the program? Is there any other way for them to help?

BR: Anyone in the community is welcome to stop by our Hamburg or West Seneca funeral home locations where there is a barrel designated for flags to be retired. If some wishes to drop a flag off outside of business hours they need simply to call our office and we can coordinate as necessary to retrieve the flag for retirement. The best way to help the Flag Retirement flag is to bring in any worn, tattered, or torn US Flags and continue to support the brave men and women who have and continue to serve our country.


What inspired Lakeside to want to offer more options in honoring our veterans?

BR: Lakeside Memorial Funeral Home was presented with the unique opportunity to team up with Veteran’s Funeral Care to provide the highest possible level of service to our veterans. We know, many of us through experiences with our personal family members or close friends, how dedicated the men and women who serve our country are to us, so it is only fair to return the favor.


What has been something that you noticed in the people who donated their retired flags to the program?

BR: Something I have noticed is that many of the flags that are being given to us are being handed to us by veterans and you see just how serious they are about giving this symbol of our country a proper send off. If you look through our bin the flags you will find are not just the ones you may see hanging on a flag pole or outside someone’s house, even the small flags that you may see decoration graves on patriotic holidays have been turned over to us. We try to fold every flag that we receive prior to placing them into our bin and the smaller the flag the more meaningful those blue and white starred triangles become.


How have families responded to the program, specifically receiving the harvested star?

BR: Little details matter. Anyone who works with families and puts their full efforts into honoring each person carefully can tell you that. Although some people may just see some star from some flag, our families see it as something that not only honors their loved one’s service to our country but as a connection to their loved ones final resting place that they can forever hold onto. Being able to hold that piece of flag and run your fingers over the threading, to some people, is near to holding their loved one’s hand one more time (or two more, or infinity more).


Is there anything that you hope that people will take away from this program?

BR: I hope that people realize how special their loved one is. Not only was that person the loved one in someone’s life, they were a care taker for our country. Only the most honorable of persons can stand up and be willing to fight for our right to be free, it takes a special kind of person. Every veteran felt a calling or was called upon for duty and served their call to the fullest of their ability. It’s like the old adage says, “All gave some, some gave all.” We want to be sure that those who gave to us receive something in return.


How would you like to see this program grow in the near future?

BR: I hope that with continued exposure to this program, those persons in our community who are not aware of or involved with veterans have their eyes opened to just how important these people are. Without the men and women who were brave enough to fight for our freedom, our communities would not exist. For the people who are familiar with all that our veterans do, it is our hope that they see the importance of this retirement program and see the US flag in a new light and will take the time to properly retire any flag they see, no matter how small. After all, every little flag containing those 13 stripes and 50 stars is a representation of our people and the services that our veterans provide and therefore deserves a proper retirement.


How will this program impact our communities of Hamburg and West Seneca, specifically for the veterans who live in the area?

BR: It is our hope that over the next year we see flags pouring in from not only the communities we serve but the surrounding communities as well. The love we all share for our veterans is a shining opportunity to bring us all together and unite in our support for these wonderful men and women.

If you have any questions about our Retire the Flag program, or you are interested in donating a flag for us to retire, please call 716-627-2919.

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