View Full Version : Cullman school’s tattered flag hangs at Pentagon

10-07-08, 07:53 AM
Cullman school’s tattered flag hangs at Pentagon
By Patrick McCreless
The Cullman Times

Mounted on a wall in one of the larger offices of the Pentagon is a folded United States flag. Though tattered and faded, it will not be replaced.

It is a symbol — an irreplaceable reminder of one Cullman school’s patriotism and respect for those who lost their lives during a tragedy that would change America forever.

“It just means a great deal,” said Cullman resident Michael Burchett.

Though Burchett lives in Cullman, he travels once a month to work at the Pentagon. He was one of many who were at the facility when it was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Every time I go back there, I’ll be reminded,” Burchett said.

For the last several years, the flag hung outside Cullman’s East Elementary School. Burchett, who has two twins at the school, brought the flag to the Pentagon last month.

“We’re just proud,” said David Wiggins, principal of East Elementary. “I think this is a prime example of when parents and students are in a project together, we can accomplish anything.”

Wiggins said the flag’s journey to the Pentagon began several weeks ago when he decided to give it a retirement ceremony.

“I wanted to have a retirement ceremony and have it burned as is tradition,” Wiggins said. “I was planning originally to have the local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts lower and burn it. However, Burchett’s wife proposed an idea that Michael (Burchett) take it to the Pentagon to be burned. It was an honor we couldn’t refuse.”

Before the flag left the school, Wiggins said he got the whole student body involved.

“We were really promoting patriotism for Sept. 11,” Wiggins said.

Every student wrote a letter or poem concerning patriotism, which were all sent to the Pentagon along with the flag.

On Sept. 11, the school held a special retirement ceremony in which two U.S. Marines properly folded the flag and displayed it to the student body. Each student had a chance to view the flag before they presented their letters.

“This was a very somber experience for them,” Burchett said.

Burchett took the flag to the Pentagon a week later under the impression that it would be retired by fire.

However, once Burchett told his contact, Maj. Gen. Richard Formica, the history of the flag, its destiny was changed.

“He said, ‘Oh no, we’ll have it prominently displayed in my office,’” Burchett said. “He said he wanted to do it as a reminder.”

Burchett said the flag is currently in a large reception area where everyone can see it. Along with the flag is a poem written by East Elementary student Katie Peyton, which Burchett said Formica personally picked out.

“It will eventually have a plaque underneath,” he said. “It’ll be there as long as that office is there.”

‰ Contact Patrick McCreless by e-mail at patrickm@cullmantimes.com or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.