There’s a right way and a wrong way to dispose of the American flag and a new program offered by Guilford County is going to help residents do it the right way.  

Guilford County is installing flag disposal boxes at the Guilford County Register of Deeds offices in Greensboro and High Point, and anyone who puts a flag into those boxes can be assured the flags will be disposed of properly.

Guilford County is also using the occasion to hold a special ceremony to honor the services of veterans. The ceremony to mark the opening of the flag disposal boxes and honor those who have fought for this country will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 8, in the second-floor county commissioners meeting room of the Old Guilford County Court House. That event will include county commissioners, representatives of veterans groups and the Boy Scouts and any others who come out to show their respect for the flag and the county’s veterans.

Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen said he’s very excited about the county honoring veterans in this way and he believes it will be a special occasion.

“I think it’s going to be a very nice event,” Thigpen said, adding that he expects several hundred people will attend.

He said the event will also help make people aware that there is now a free and simple way to dispose of flags in the county.

Commissioner Kay Cashion, who works very closely with the National Association of Counties (NACo) on behalf of Guilford County, said this is part of a national effort by NACo, which has been offering the drop off boxes to member counties across the country. At the Thursday, Nov. 1 Guilford County commissioners meeting, she said that the flag service and Nov. 8 event should help residents understand how to treat the flag.

“You do not want flags going into the trash,” Cashion said.

The program, which is a partnership between the National Flag Foundation, NACo and the National Sheriff’s Association – allows counties across the country to request one free flag disposal box per county for residents to drop off their tattered or ripped flags for a proper, dignified disposal. Additional boxes can be obtained from NACo for a small fee. Participating counties, such as Guilford County, work with local groups like the Boy Scouts, veterans organizations or the local Sheriff’s Department, which dispose of the flags in a respectful manner.

The most commonly accepted way of retiring a flag is to fold it properly and burn it while saluting or reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. That ceremony also includes a moment of silence and ends with burying the ashes.

“We want to be sure that our citizens know they can drop off their flags,” Cashion said at the Nov. 1 meeting, noting that the drop off box in Greensboro would be right inside the deeds office at 201 W. Market St.

“You just pull in and get out and put your flag in a box and go,” she said.

Thigpen said he’s pleased his office is playing a role in the new program. He said the county is also using the occasion to honor the life of the son of a Register of Deeds employee who lost his life in Afghanistan.

“I’ve got a Gold Star mother in my office who lost her son in 2011,” Thigpen said.

American Gold Star Mothers is an organization of American mothers who lost sons or daughters in military service.

Lance Corp. Christopher Phoenix-Jacob Levy was 11 years old on 9/11/ 2001, when terrorists attacked America and, at that time, he vowed to help get those responsible. He got that wish: His Marine unit played a support role for the Navy Seals that killed Osama Bin Laden in the compound in Pakistan on May 2, 2011. Six months later, in December of that year, Levy died after being shot by a sniper in Afghanistan.

Thigpen said the drop off spot will be designated with Levy’s picture and story.

“The wall will be where the flag box is for the public to bring their flags,” Thigpen said. “It will have a picture and a bio of Jacob. The county logo and Boy Scouts logo will be there as well. You’ll be able to see it as you drive up so it’s convenient to walk in and leave it quickly.”

Thigpen said it had been an “emotional” planning process for those helping with the event including Cashion and Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Alan Branson.

Thigpen said many people don’t known that the grommet – the metal eyelets on flags for mounting – are often melted down when flags are destroyed and incorporated into mementos for family members who have lost loved ones.

“It’s the idea of rising from the ashes,” Thigpen said of the practice.

He added that the “Phoenix” in Christopher Phoenix-Jacob Levy’s name was especially appropriate in this situation.

Thigpen said that this comes at a time when the county is really ramping up its attention and care for those who have served in the armed forces.

“The Board of Commissioners is making a strong commitment to the veterans community,” Thigpen said.

Guilford County recently hired a new director of Veterans Services Department who by all accounts has been making strides in that regard.