ESCONDIDO: Patriot Flag retirement ceremony set for Sunday
A giant American flag first flown in Escondido —- and then inevery state in the nation over the past year to honor 9/11 victimsand members of the military —- will be retired at a ceremonystarting at 1 p.m. Sunday at a local American Legion post.
The Patriot Flag is 180 square feet of red, white and blue thatweighs more than 75 pounds. It will be retired during a 90-minuteceremony at the American Legion Post 149 at 230 E. Park Ave inEscondido —- complete with a color guard show and a flyover.
The Patriot Flag had been flown over the Escondido Auto Parkuntil the organization donated it to the local post.
The flag was worn and tattered by then, said Wayne Louth, anorganizer for the Patriot Flag project. Louth and other SanDiego-area residents put together a plan to send it on a yearlongtrip through the United States.
Its journey began Sept. 11, 2010. Since then, it has traveled byway of FedEx through all 50 states in 50 weeks, Louth said.
"I'm totally surprised," he said. "This event just started out asimple project, and just in a couple of months we realized it wasgetting bigger than we ever anticipated at all."
He said the flag's retirement is bittersweet, but necessary.
The Patriot Flag is too important to be destroyed, he said, butit deserves to rest —- it had been handled by hundreds ofthousands of people, damaged and repaired repeatedly during itslife on the road.
It was flown high from the tops of many firetruck ladders,battered by the wind and stained with what Louth lovingly callsfiretruck blood —- hydraulic fluid.
"It can't go any farther," he said. "To go any farther would bea knockdown for what it has done."
It has accomplished its mission.
After it's retired Sunday, he said the flag will eventually beenshrined at an American Legion post in Pennsylvania, just a fewmiles away from the field where United Airlines Flight 93 crashedon Sept. 11, 2001.
Call staff writer Brandon Lowrey at 760-740-3517 or follow himon Twitter @NCTLowrey.