Ed Tooley

Elks Lodge president

Why do the Elks hold a Flag Day ceremony?

We are the official disposal site for American flags in Knox County and part of our charter is veterans affairs and patriotism.

How does the disposal of flags work?

A retired flag has to be disposed of by burning. Before you can burn it, the field of stars has to be cut out. We're looking at cutting the stars out of probably 1,000 flags the Sunday before. Then we'll have a pyre and the City of Knoxville Fire Department will actually ignite the pyre and burn the flags at the Saturday ceremony.

And there's a ritual involved before the burning?

It begins with an indoor ceremony and then an outdoor ceremony, and it's very moving. We represent the flags from the original colonies, and a squad of Marines will cut each stripe out of the flag, and there will be a speech about what that stripe represents and then it is marched to the pyre and ignited. When that flag is totally cut, then it's ignited.

Whose flag do you use for that?

It's a donated flag—last year Pilot donated one from the corporate headquarters. These are monster flags.

What do you do with the ashes?

The flags burn pretty well down. It's a hot fire. It has an accelerant on it—that's why the Fire Department is here.

If people still have old flags, can they just bring them that day?

Yes. Last year we had several hundred left over. We burned a thousand, and any more than that, we'll just keep 'em in storage and burn 'em next year.

What's your role in all this?

Fred Sherrod is chairman of the Elks Lodge Flag Day Committee, and I'm...internally, I'm known as the Exalted Ruler. Externally, I'm called the president. I've been at the ceremony every year for 10 years.

This Flag Day program is presented by the Knoxville Elks Lodge, B.P.O.E. #160, at 6000 Lonas Road beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 14.