Velis collecting torn, tattered American flags Oct. 29

WESTFIELD-For area residents who have an American flag that is torn, faded, or damaged, state Sen. John C. Velis and his legislative aides will be collecting them curbside on Oct. 29 at the Westfield Senior Center.

State Sen. John C. Velis, pictured here at a POW/MIA ceremony at Pine Hill Cemetery in 2020, will collect tattered and torn American flags Oct. 29. (HOPE E. TREMBLAY/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

Flags may be dropped off from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. For seniors who are picking up a meal that day, they may bring their flag with them and drop it off when they come through the lunch line from 11 a.m. – noon. All others can bring their flags from noon –  1 p.m.

“The flag is a symbol and representation of our great country, and should always be in pristine condition,” said Velis, who has served in the Army Reserve for 11 years. “When it is in a condition that is no longer fitting for display, it should be retired in a dignified and appropriate way.”

The flag collection began a few years ago, according to Tina Gorman, executive director, Westfield Council on Aging.

“At that time, we had held some workshops on ‘Downsizing in Place,’” said Gorman. “They involved scaling back on household inventory. As participants sorted, donated, and threw out items, several asked about disposal of worn and tattered flags, and that’s why and how the ‘flag retirement’ event was born.”

For the past two years, the flag retirement coincided with the annual Senior Options event.

“Senator Velis was slated to collect the flags this year, but we had to cancel the Senior Options event,” said Gorman, adding, “so he asked if we could hold the event as part of our daily curbside lunch pickup.”

Velis noted he is working with Julie Barnes, director, Westfield Department of Veterans Services, to ensure that the flags are forwarded to the Marine Corps for a proper retirement.

“I have participated in this event for the past couple of years,” said Velis. “Obviously things have changed this year but it’s still important that this event still take place.”
Velis noted that COVID-19 should not in any way keep area residents from displaying and retiring the American flag honorably.

“I can say without reservation that I think America is the greatest nation on the earth, and the flag is a symbol of that,” said Velis. “People have died, have been maimed, and have been permanently maimed in defense of the flag and everything we hold dear in the country. To me, the flag means everything.”

For more information on the flag retirement collection, call the Westfield Senior Center at (413) 562-6435.

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