LIVINGSTON -- Wayne Schuver was expecting “just a little box.”
But that “little box” turned out to be much bigger than he expected, and it was already starting to fill with red, white and blue flags.
The box Schuver referred to was actually an American flag retirement site that a Walker resident recently set up in front of the Livingston Parish Courthouse.
Rufus Heyse — who supplied the metal crate and installed it at no cost to the parish — said he did it to ensure “flags are retired the proper way instead of people getting rid of them in disgrace.” He said he is responsible for making sure “no one trashes the area” and that the box is only being used to store old flags for retirement.
Though he had hardly advertised the retirement box, word had already spread by the time Heyse, Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks, and representatives from the parish, the military and local Boy Scouts troops came together for a short dedication ceremony Feb. 4.
Heyse said the deposit box should help those who are confused as to what to do with their worn-out American flags.
“Some people take flags down and honestly don’t know what to do with them,” Heyse said, “so this should help them. Just bring them here, and we'll take care of it. We haven’t advertised at all, and we already have a dozen or so in there.”
According to the U.S. Flag Code, “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.” Organizations that typically provide this service are American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Boy and Girl Scouts of America and the U.S. Military, though the Flag Code doesn't exclude private citizens from holding ceremonies.
Heyse said the box will remain unlocked at all times so people can drop off their unused flags “around the clock.”
Schuver, the program director for the Boy Scouts of America Istrouma Area Council, said local Boy Scouts usually hold flag retirement ceremonies at Camp Avondale, which gives them a chance to “collect flags, learn the proper ways to fold them and retire them, and possibly earn badges.”
He also said he was pleasantly surprised when he saw the size of Heyse’s retirement site — a white metal box that stretches nearly 7 feet tall and about half as wide.
“This is not what I was envisioning,” he said, looking up at the crate. “I was thinking it was gonna be a little box. This is a pretty big contraption.”
Added Cliff McDaniel, scoutmaster of Troop 479 in Livingston: “We thought it was gonna be a mailbox, like in a front door.”
McDaniel and Heyse agreed that McDaniel’s troop — which has grown from one Scout to 14 in two years — would regularly check the deposit box, with one Scout being charged with collecting flags every week.
McDaniel, who took over the troop two years ago, said he and his Scouts hold four retirement ceremonies a year, usually with retired flags from military veterans. Scouts learn “how to properly fold flags, how to properly store them and how to properly retire them,” McDaniel said.
“Anytime we have retirement ceremonies, we try to invite veterans and have them participate in the program,” McDaniel said. “I’m real big about teaching these boys how to be respectful because this transfers over to bigger themes, like being respectful of people in life.”