WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Gregory Allen served in the military for six years, but his duty to the country is not over yet.
He served most of that time in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Now, he helps properly retire flags no longer fit to be displayed. Allen has been doing that for years now as a commander at Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 8879.
There are four drop box locations in West Des Moines where anyone can leave their flags. Allen drives around and empties them a multiple times a year. At times, they can be overflowing with flags.
Sometimes he'll find newer flags in the boxes, so before they can be retired Allen checks each of them and make sure they are worthy of retiring, inspecting them for extreme discolorations, rips or tears.
If the flags meet those standards, they go through a special ceremony.
"To retire it properly, ceremoniously, [means] basically burned," Allen said. "Once it's burned then the garments and ashes are taken and buried in a place and never to be bothered."
VFW Post 8879 usually hosts that ceremony twice a year, in the spring and fall. This year, Allen said between five and six thousand flags have been laid to rest.
"For me personally, to respectively retire the flag means giving respect to the country."
The West Des Moines drop boxes are located behind G Mig's Pub (128 5th St.) and at the following fire stations: No. 17 (1401 Railroad Ave.), No. 18 (5025 Grand Ave.) and No. 21 (3421 Ashworth Road).
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