Girl scouts watch tattered flags retired

Retired Bonita Vista High School teacher Sharon Leslie (left) spoke to Girl Scouts before a flag burning ceremony.

Retired Bonita Vista High School teacher Sharon Leslie led slightly under 100 Girl Scouts and troop leaders in a history lesson at the Alpine VFW post Saturday morning.

Troop 5248 hosted the event under the leadership of Shannon Thornton, with scouts of all ages from troops 5810, 5932, 5090, 5931, 5832 and others showing up to pay homage as dozens of worn, tattered and retired American flags in varying sizes deemed too worn to serve were cremated in a large iron urn.

The ceremony was held according to the United States Flag Code adopted on June 14, 1923.

Vietnam veteran and Alpine Wall of Honor organizer Dan Foster introduced the event and told the scouts they were able to attend because America is a free country and the flag is a symbol of that freedom.

“Freedom gives us a chance to sit here today, gives us a chance to salute the Girl Scouts. America is something you ought to be proud of,” Foster said.

Leslie casually led attendees from the battles of Lexington and Concord through the inception of the American flag and an explanation of Francis Scott Key’s penning of our national anthem.

The former world history and government teacher spoke in a measured voice at the podium, calmly holding the attention of everyone in the room including Foster and Thornton, along with VFW Quartermaster Carl Silva, VFW Chaplain Theo Bazdorf, VFW  Commander Jack Gauthier and firefighters from Alpine Fire District.

“I had forgotten how powerful she can be as a speaker and I was in awe. The little girls sat there the whole time, totally quiet — you can’t help but be enthralled at how she speaks,” Thornton said.

Following the formal speeches from Foster and Leslie in the VFW meeting room, the scouts all proceeded to the fire waiting outside where Bazdorf and Gauthier briefly spoke on ceremony then lowered the first flag into the waiting flames.

After the first three flags were cremated, the scouts were released from the ceremony.
Bazdorf dutifully remained at the fiery grave and laid the remaining flags to rest.

“I was absolutely ecstatic to have those girls all here. I hope they come back and do something like this again because they were amazing,” Silva said.