Local funeral home accepts worn US flags as final tribute to veterans

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) A Waco funeral home and crematorium is offering to take tattered, worn or retired American flags and give them a proper retirement while at the same time honoring veterans whose services it’s handling.

(Photo by Paul J. Gately)

It’s a plan just initiated by Brent Shehorn, director of the Lake Shore Funeral Home and Crematory, on Lake Shore Drive, in Waco, who said the program allows participants to “retire your American flag in the proper way and a way to honor our veterans.”

Collection boxes already are in place around town where anyone can drop in a tattered or worn American flag and the funeral home will dispose of the colors in a proper way, Shehorn said.

Most Americans aren’t familiar with the U.S. Flag Code, which prescribes proper ways to display, carry, hang, and even dispose of, American flags.

Shehorn says he’s doing it “the right way.”

“The U.S. Code, the Code is compiled by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel of the United States House of Representatives,” a summary on the U.S. Flag Code webpage says, and “is divided into 50 titles by subject matter.”

“The federal flag code stipulates that irreparably damaged or soiled flags should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” the code says.

Shehorn says he discovered the idea while talking to other funeral directors around the country, but Lake Shore is the only place in Central Texas to offer the service.

Lake Shore’s crematory still is under construction, but Shehorn said he’s hopeful he can begin offering the service in February.

Some funeral homes charge for such a service, he said, but at Lake Shore it’s free.

Not only does the funeral home dispose of flags in a proper way, but sometimes those flags can be used in veteran’s funeral services.

Shehorn said, with a family’s permission, he’ll drape a coffin headed for cremation with a flag and the veteran’s ashes will forever be mixed with those of the flag that he or she served.

If a family wishes, we will use one of the aged retired flags collected to be cremated alongside the veteran.

"This program allows us to not only dispose of the American Flag in the proper way, but to also honor our veterans,” Shehorn said.

Shehorn said one veteran recently told him: “The flag, the symbol of our country, should not be desecrated in any way.

“It should be disposed of with respect and dignity, preferably by incineration,” the veteran said.

“We applaud Lake Shore’s effort and any organization that strives to honor our flag in this manner.”

Shehorn is so entranced by the honors that he traveled to Houston last week to participate in the state funeral for the late President George H.W. Bush.

“All I did was walk by his casket, but it was a very moving experience,” he said.

The funeral home has been operating in Waco since 2008 and is one of the few family owned- and operated funeral homes in the area.

“Think of it as the U.S. Flag’s last duty to pay honor to a deserving veteran,” Shehorn said.

“Upon receipt of the cremated remains of their veteran, the family will receive a certificate stating the last deed of service for that flag, which was to drape their veteran during the cremation disposition process,” Shehorn pointed out.