With hands over hearts, more than 100 community members gathered Friday in Veterans Memorial Park in Provo and watched three worn American flags burn on an open fire stove.

The three flags flew in public spaces until they were ragged and torn, said Randy Edwards, the Utah County Veterans Service coordinator. He dedicated the retired flags to military veterans, first responders and American National Legion.

“Have you ever thought about or known the flag predates the Constitution?” Edwards said. “Nothing has been so truly predicated as Americans and patriots in our country as we present our national colors, sing the national anthem and give our pledge allegiance to our country.”

The annual Freedom Festival Flag Retirement Ceremony marks the beginning of patriotic celebrations in Provo, with the Freedom Days bringing parades, carnivals and live entertainment from July 3 to July 6.

A representative read a statement from Mayor Michelle Kaufusi that declared the week of June 10 as “Honor Our Flag” week in Provo.

The ceremony included the Utah County Sheriff’s Department posting the national and state flags and a speech from Carlissa Frederich, the 2018 National Champion of the American Legion High School Oratorical Completion.

Don Henscheid also spoke at the ceremony and shared favorite memories of his son, Landon, before the 24-year-old was injured while serving as a medic in Afghanistan and died from cancer.

“We had 18 months with him. We had that time and bound our family together in many ways that we couldn’t even comprehend and the price we paid was beyond what we thought,” Henscheid said. “When I say that God, family and country cannot be divided, in our experiences, I mean that.”

The flags were handled and folded by members of the Sons of the American Legion Post 13 and laid on the fire by the Utah County Sheriff’s Honor Guard and Provo Metro Honor Guard.

Republican Sen. Mike Lee attended the event and presented a memorial flag to Paul Warner, who is leaving his position after years as executive director of the Freedom Festival.

“Whenever someone starts talking about the Fourth of July or Independence Day celebrations, people like to rave about the celebration they have in Washington D.C.,” Lee said. “But I always tell them you haven’t seen anything until you’ve been to the Freedom Festival in Provo.”

Ashley Stilson covers crime, courts and breaking news for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at 801-344-2556 or astilson@heraldextra.com.

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