Photos by Marcy Stamper
Grayson Alexander accepts a flag from his father ­(and scoutmaster) Bryan Alexander.

Eagle Scout project creates proper disposal site

By Marcy Stamper

Worn or tattered U.S. flags will get the respect they deserve now that there’s a flag-retirement box outside Hank’s Harvest Foods in Twisp.

Hank’s clerk Keenan Braam, left, an Eagle Scout himself, said people often ask at the store where they can retire a flag. Manager Jimmy Gariano was also on hand to represent the store.

The box was installed last week by Winthrop resident Grayson Alexander as his Eagle Scout project. Alexander is the first Eagle Scout from local Boy Scout Troop No. 51 in six years.

Alexander, age 17, got the idea for the box when he learned that people looking for a proper way to retire a flag often ask at Hank’s or the Methow Valley Community Center. He found there was no flag-retirement box in the area — in fact, they’re relatively rare — so he took it on as his Eagle Scout project. He converted a video-return drop-box from Twisp’s former video-rental store.

Before depositing a flag in the box, people should fold it in a triangle as provided by the country’s flag code. While the code doesn’t provide step-by-step instructions for retiring old flags, it says, “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.”

Boy Scout troops, the U.S. Navy and veterans’ groups most often take on the task of retiring old flags, and they all have their own ceremonies. The local Boy Scout troop will periodically empty the box and hold a ceremony, which includes proper folding and speeches to honor the flag.

Ty Sheehan, who was cubmaster when Grayson was a Cub Scout, brought an old flag to retire.

The installation of the drop-box was its own ceremony, attracting Alexander’s family, scout leaders who’ve worked with Alexander, and employees and curious customers from Hank’s. Several brought flags to deposit in the box.

Alexander spent almost five hours grinding the paint off the old video box. He repainted it with a flag design, the name of the scout troop, and his name. But the most exciting thing for him was his inspiration for the box — he based it on the Lockheed Electra 1935, a twin-engine plane with chrome fuselage flown by Amelia Earhart. “I love that plane so much,” said Alexander.

Alexander, a sophomore in college through Running Start, already has his pilot’s license. But he aspires to traveling even further, having set his sights on becoming an astronaut. Maybe he can plant a flag on a distant planet some day.