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Off Central: Peoria firefighter collects worn American flags for veteran cremations

(Peoria Fire Medical Department)
LISTEN: Off Central: Retired Peoria firefighter gives worn American flags for veteran cremations

PHOENIX — It all started one day when retired Peoria Fire Department Capt. John Davirro wondered what happens to old, worn-out American flags.

“I saw a need for a mechanism to have something done with our worn-out American Flags,” he said. “So I went to the chief and asked him if I could put some collection boxes in our fire stations.”

Davirro’s idea turned into the perfect tribute for Old Glory and our nation’s veterans that are being laid to rest. The firefighter pairs the worn flags with those that will be cremated.

“What a great way to retire the flag and to honor the veteran that is being cremated,” Davirro said. “You have the ashes of the flag and ashes of your loved one and you’re getting both. For you to keep or to honor.”

A veteran’s family receives a folded American flag to keep after it has been laid on their casket. It is not used in cremations.

Since beginning the program, Davirro has collected nearly 300 flags.

“Once we get enough flags, I take them home and I fold them and I bring them to the Heritage Funeral home,” he said. “Sometimes it takes two or three people to fold one of those big flags, but we get it done.”

Most of the flags he receives are in pretty bad shape. Davirro attempts to make them as nice as possible.

“I just bring flags that are wadded up, I have to fold them,” he said. “It’s respect.”

The idea is catching on. Flag collection boxes can be found at every Peoria Fire Station and some have special notes attached.

“This Old Glory has seen better days,” Davirro read one note aloud. “She was flying at an abandoned house next door to a home our daughter had just bought.

“I was appalled. Out came the ladder, I respectfully took her down. I now present her to you for an honorable disposal.”

The note was written by a 22-year veteran of the Air Force, who said the flag should be paired with someone who decided to serve the country.

“Long may she wave, God bless America,” the note finished.

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