PEPPERELL — Veterans, Boy Scouts and local residents stood in silence on Veterans Day and saluted as a tattered American flag was retired via burning.
The ceremony was carried out at the newly-opened flag retirement pit located behind the Pepperell Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3291 on Leighton Street. The spot made up of stone features a pit deep enough for any tattered or damaged American flags to be burned in a controlled environment, with onlookers respecting the service the flag carried out and those who honored it with their military service. The National Flag Foundation recognizes ceremonial burning as an official way to retire a flag.
The pit was designed by 16-year-old Jack Desmarais as the main piece of his Eagle Scout project. Desmarais said it’s taken him a year and a half to design and oversee the construction of the pit after finding a picture of a similar pit online.
“I had talked to the people in the VFW and they said that this was something that they needed and that they would like,” Desmarais said. “I figured this would be the perfect opportunity. The VFWs used to burn their flags in places where they used to cook, so they needed somewhere more sentimental and respectful to retire them.”
Desmarais is well-decorated with merit badges. All that remains of his Eagle Scout work is some paperwork.
“My dad was in Cub Scouts when he was a little kid and he always told me I should do it,” he added. “I started it when I was in first grade and I’ve worked my way up through ten years. Being an Eagle Scout is something I’ve always wanted to do.”
While there was an American flag retired during the pit’s opening ceremony, another American flag was inserted into the wall of the pit. Matthew Desmarais, Jack’s father, said that flag was presented to his family by soldiers after the passing of his father, Thomas, who served in the Marines during the Korean War.
“These boys march in the Memorial Day and Fourth of July parades, they take this stuff seriously,” Matthew Desmarais added. “We want these boys to appreciate this place.”