Flag burning marks end of Brewer VFW post

Posted Feb. 26, 2009, at 9:53 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — The flag for the Isaac E. Clewley Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4917 was ceremonially retired Thursday as a crowd of veterans and residents watched, at times saluting the colors or holding their hands over the hearts.

Brewer’s VFW post joined Bangor’s Norman N. Dow Post 1761 earlier this month to create the Norman N. Dow-Isaac E. Clewley Post 1761, and the flag ceremony was a final act by its members.

“It’s a sad day for us, but it’s been a long time coming,” Don Mattson, who had been Brewer post commander since 2004, said just before the ceremony began. “It’s too bad we’ve got to do this, but we just plain ran out of money.”

An aging and less-active membership also helped lead to the consolidation, according to members of both posts.

On Thursday, cadets from Brewer High School’s Junior ROTC program lowered the flag at the Brewer post, folded it and presented it to Mattson while members of Boy Scout Troops 1 and 15 played “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Longtime members Almer Chambers, a U.S. Navy veteran, and Orville “Zeke” Leighton, a U.S. Army veteran, who both served in the 1950s during the Korean War, said they were saddened by the post’s closing.

“It meant a lot,” Leighton said. “Comradeship is a big part of it. Sharing stories.”

Chambers, who was a Bangor VFW member before moving to Brewer and joining the Clewley post 10 years ago, said, “It’s a friendly bunch, we all got along good.”

Being a part of the VFW is rewarding, he said, explaining that “the friends are part of it, and helping other people, other veterans” is another part.

After the flag was lowered, folded and presented to Mattson, it was time for the official flag retirement ceremony. Faded or tattered flags no longer fit for display should be “destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning,” according to the United States Flag Code.

To retire the old, faded Brewer post flag, Leighton and Chambers helped Mattson unfold it and place it into a fire.

“Now I am tired and it’s time for me to rest in the sacred flames of your fire,” Nicholas Turner, a Boy Scout from Troop 1, said during the ceremony. “My colors are faded and my cloth is tattered, but my spirit remains unbroken.”

Steven Loftin, also from Troop 1, added: “Now I am just a memory, but if there is a tear in your eye or a lump in your throat; if you felt a shiver in your spine as you watched me burn, then I will be back the next time you need me … When I climb to the top of the flagpole, I’ll wave at you.”

After the ceremony ended, the crowd was invited to the Brewer Middle School for refreshments. Mattson, Leighton and Chambers stayed behind at the post to burn some smaller, faded flags that had been used to mark veterans’ gravestones on Memorial Day, and others that had been brought to the post for proper disposal.

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