Why a NH funeral home is giving flags, and veterans, the respect they deserve
MANCHESTER – Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium is collecting worn, tattered or torn American flags and will use its facilities to provide a respectful retirement.
A drop box has been placed outside the funeral home's Manchester location on Hanover street, and this will be where old or damaged American flags can be dropped of. The box is available for drop-off any time day or night, and the flags are promised to be disposed of properly.
Arthur “Buddy” Phaneuf, president and CEO of Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium, believes collecting the unserviceable flags will ensure they receive a proper ceremonial incarceration.
Visitors can deposit their flags into the drop box wrapped in a flag graphic, and the funeral home will handle it from there.
Phaneuf is offering families of deceased veterans the opportunity to be cremated with one of these flags if they wish to do so.
Phaneuf said that the funeral home periodically received calls from local VFWs asking Phaneuf to dispose of old American flags. Then about six months ago, Phaneuf saw in a magazine that a Pennsylvania funeral home was working directly with a VFW by setting up a mailbox to drop off unserviceable flags. Phaneuf then contacted the VFW and purchased a decorated mailbox.
What started out as an informal service, Phaneuf said that many families of deceased veterans have been grateful for the offer of burying a flag with their loved one. The funeral home will not hold onto many of the flags for a long period of time, but they will make sure they always have one available for a family when they need one.
“This program allows us to not only dispose of the American flag in the proper way, but to also honor our veterans,” Phaneuf said. “Not every veteran is cremated with a flag. If a family wishes, we will use one of the aged flags, collected from our drop box, to be cremated alongside the veteran. In this way, we retire the flag properly and give our veterans the respect they merit. It is another way we support our community by helping families whose loved ones have served our country.”
The federal flag code requires that damaged or soiled flags should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning. Burning these flags with deceased veterans is a great way to use the flags one last time in a respectful way.
Norm Gravel, Commander of the American Legion Henry J. Sweeney Post 2 in Manchester, supports the program.
“The flag, the symbol of our country, should not be desecrated in any way,” Gravel said. “It should be disposed of with respect and dignity, preferably by incineration. We applaud Phaneuf’s effort, and any organization that strives to honor our flag in this manner.”
Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium has been in existence since 1906 and is one of the oldest continually owned family funeral homes in New Hampshire. It is the largest provider of funeral services in the state serving 2,600 families a year, and operates four full service funeral homes, two crematories, two non-denominational chapels, and a cremation service.