Stars and stripes fluttered in the wind Friday morning as local veteran groups and town representatives gathered in East Northport for a flag retirement ceremony to celebrate Flag Day.
The hosts of the event, the Town of Huntington and Covanta, discussed a new program they launched one year ago to help people dispose of their worn out or old flags, which Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci says is a challenge many veterans groups face.
“We just want to remind people that we just don’t throw them out in the regular garbage can, and there’s a proper process of retiring a flag,” Lupinacci said.
Over the past year, Covanta has processed over 55,000 flags from local communities at their renewable energy facility. The program helps veteran groups set up drop boxes where residents can dispose their flags like the post office, fire department, and town hall.
The waste management company then boxes the flags and runs them through a boiler to vaporize each flag at a high temperature instead of burning them. The typical way of retiring a flag leaves behind ashes and releases toxins, which can be harmful to the environment and to the health of those who burn them.
Ken Hinsch, facility manager of the Covanta Huntington facility, says boiling flags within the flag code was a priority for him and the company.
“This is the best service that we can actually do for our veteran communities,” Hinsch said. “They came to us last year with huge amounts of issues associated with trying to get rid of large quantities of flags the right way.”
The main speaker at the ceremony, Jerry Jerome, praised Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci for the new veterans plaza in front of Town Hall, and Columbia Terrace, an affordable housing complex made for veterans.
Suffolk County has the second largest veteran community in the United States, according to County Executive Steve Bellone, who spoke at the ceremony.
“The flag is the symbol of all the people who have sacrificed their lives throughout the history of the U.S.,” Rocky Patuano, the commandant of the Suffolk County Marine Corps League and resident of Northport, said. “Retiring the flag honors their commitment, honors their dedication, and honors their sacrifices.”