- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

LOGANSPORT, Ind. (AP) - Stars and stripes faded to a pale pink and baby blue from months or years spent in the sunshine.

Edges shredded by gusts of wind that whipped them back and forth hour after hour.

It’s par for the course for the old and tattered flags that make their way to the American Legion in Logansport.

But with Jim Stokes in charge, they’re getting a proper ceremonial incineration in a program that also honors the veterans who spent part of their lives protecting what the flag stands for.

Stokes, commander of the local Legion and president of the Cass County Veterans Council, recently began ceremonially placing “unserviceable” flags with the bodies of veterans whose families had chosen cremation.

He’s accepting anyone’s old flags, he said, because he shudders to imagine what would happen to the flags otherwise.

“It’s kind of haunting to think about what people are doing with their flags,” he told the Pharos-Tribune (http://bit.ly/1kHOeBx ).

The cremation with the veterans serves as a proper disposal of the flag in accordance with federal flag code, which stipulates that irreparably damaged or soiled flags should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

“These veterans have served the flag, have served under the flag,” Stokes said - making it fitting for an unserviceable flag to be ceremonially disposed of as part of a veteran’s cremation service.

“I think it’s way more respectful” to the flag, Stokes added, than incinerating old flags in a bonfire after a flag disposal ceremony.

Stokes got the idea from an American Legion magazine and decided to implement it locally. He spoke with the managers of a local crematory, Gundrum Funeral Home and Crematory, who were more than willing to participate.

“It’s just another thing we can do to help the veterans’ families any way we can,” said Chris Smith, a funeral director and manager of the funeral home.

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Information from: Pharos-Tribune, http://www.pharostribune.com