The U.S. Flag Code states that unserviceable American flags are to be retired in a dignified manner, preferably by burning. “But there is nothing in the Flag Code that states what you should do with the ashes. I always felt that maybe they should be buried in a place where they’ll never be disturbed,” said Dave Graham, commander of Billy Glenn Rushing American Legion Post 90 in Atmore, Ala.
Through Graham’s guidance, the idea to create a final resting place for the ashes of retired American flags has become a reality.
The ashes from retired American flags will now be interred in a newly constructed steel vault called Old Glory Lookout that’s placed at the highest mountaintop at Cheaha State Park in Delta, Ala. The creation of the vault was a collaboration between members of American Legion Post 90 and Cheaha State Park.
“Our goal and hope is that this spot will be visited, respected and enjoyed by thousands of visitors annually,” Graham said.
The vault was dedicated Dec. 7, the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, during a public ceremony at the Old Glory Lookout with Post 90 members, local and state dignitaries, and community members. The first ashes interred were those from a flag retirement ceremony at Post 90 on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Then ceremony attendees were offered to inter Old Glory ashes that they may have brought with them.
“The remains of these retired American flags will rest undisturbed on Alabama’s highest mountaintop and greet the rising sun each day,” said Chris Blankenship, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources commissioner. “They serve as a reminder to honor the past and embrace the future. We are honored that Cheaha State Park was chosen to be the home of this important facility.”
The vault is encased in native Cheaha quartzite that was cut by hand almost 100 years ago by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and it’s located on the eastern slope of the ridge near Bald Rock overlooking the valley below. Alabama State Parks Director Greg Lein and Cheaha State Park staff worked together to select a dignified location within the park to serve as the final resting place for the ashes of retired flags.
“We are proud of our parks system staff for their strong history of supporting our nation’s servicemembers,” Lein said. “Cheaha staff did an excellent job assisting the American Legion Post 90 in the creation of the Old Glory Lookout.”
A wood plaque sits on top of the vault with photos of the U.S. flag being retired. The plaque has The American Legion emblem and reads, “I am the ashes from our American flag that has flown over a home or a business in Alabama. I can no longer fly! The sun, winds and weather have caused me to become tattered, torn and faded. I am no longer fit for proper display, but I have served my purpose. Lord please look out for this beautiful place, respect it and love it as I do. Protect it from further development that I may never be disturbed. My NAME IS OLD GLORY!”
Graham said that the vault is for any veteran service organization, civic organization or Scouting troop to inter ashes from retired American flags.
“Our small post had a vision that we took action on,” said Paul Chason, Post 90 adjutant. "The dream to construct a place that would remain undisturbed and serve as a location for various military, veteran and civic organizations in Alabama to inter the ashes of retired flags with dignity and honor is now a reality. We believe (Old Glory Lookout) is the first of its kind in America.”