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NEWS | June 21, 2021

Retire the Flag: NNSY VET-ERG Continues Annual Tradition Delivering U.S. Flags to Local Funeral Home

By Kristi Britt, Public Affairs Specialist Norfolk Naval Shipyard

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson established June 14 as Flag Day to celebrate the anniversary of the adoption of the Stars and Stripes – the United States (U.S.) Flag. Now, more than 100 years later, at Norfolk Naval Shipyard’s (NNSY) the Veterans’ Employee Readiness Group (VET-ERG) leads the charge in celebration of the flag and what it symbolizes with their collaboration with Sturtevant Funeral Home in Portsmouth, Va.

                Five years ago, the VET-ERG learned of Sturtevant’s Retire Your Flag Program. The program collects donated old or worn U.S. Flags from the community. The flags are draped over a fallen veteran at the time of cremation, a tribute to their service and a patriotic way to honor them. Each year, the VET-ERG invites fellow shipyarders and their families to donate any old or worn flags to the cause. This year – the team was able to collect 217 worn U.S. flags and deliver to Sturtevant during a ceremony held Jun. 14.

                “Since the first national observation of Flag Day, Americans have continued to find various ways to honor and reflect on what the Stars and Stripes mean to them on this day. I am proud of and grateful for our VET-ERG members in seeking out and collecting aging flags to present to the Sturtevant Funeral Home today. Flag draped caskets resonate with Americans as a symbol of sacrifice and reflects the high regard and respect rendered to a veteran’s military service. In the event a veteran or their survivors opt for cremation, these flags will serve one last assignment in a fitting tribute, honoring our fallen veterans in a dignified manner,” said VET-ERG President Josh Wannemacher.

                “This endeavor was started by Rick Nelson years ago, and after his retirement in 2019, I wanted to keep this program going,” said VET-ERG member and former President Nicholas Boyle who led the donation efforts. “The VET-ERG is always ready and willing to support the mission and people of NNSY, as well as our community. Working with Sturtevant has always been such a unique opportunity for us at NNSY. An opportunity where we can honor our fallen veterans with a piece of ourselves and our own history – flags that served their duty and will be there to accompany those veterans as they come to rest. Additionally, we ensure that the proper disposal and respect is offered to the flags that are collected. I’m so proud of our team and our community as a whole for once again answering the call to action.”

                The team invited NNSY Executive Officer Capt. Todd Nichols and Command Master Chief Gene Garland to help celebrate this momentous achievement as they turned over the flags to Robie Gardner who represented Sturtevant Funeral Home.

                “It’s a pleasure to be able to do this for our shipyard and community and it’s great to see our team come forward to show their ongoing support,” said Capt. Nichols.

                “This program is very special to us at Sturtevant and to our community. NNSY continues to go above and beyond to help us in this endeavor and it’s truly an honor to work with all of you,” said Gardner. “Your support means a lot to me and my family at Sturtevant and we always look forward to coming together each year to celebrate our veterans.”

                Wannemacher added, “I look forward to continuing to carrying on this important initiative. The VET-ERG will now embark on a year-long collection in preparation for Flag Day 2022.”

                The NNSY VET-ERG supports members of the NNSY workforce who are military veterans of all five branches of service and other supporters of our nation’s veterans through a system of comprehensive activities and outreach programs. For more information regarding the NNSY VET-ERG, email the VET-ERG Officer group at

                Learn more about the Retire Your Flag program at To learn more about Flag Day, visit