D-Day veteran Dominick DeLuca cradled a folded and faded American flag to his chest Sunday for the ceremonial retirement of the colors.
When the sergeant at arms barked "about face," DeLuca, 91, was a step slower than the other two war veterans next to him, but still stood straight as he presented the Stars and Stripes.
"They're a symbol of our country. We should put them to rest with honor," said DeLuca, of Islip, who landed in Normandy with the Army's 2nd Infantry Division.
Across Long Island and the country, civic groups celebrated Flag DaySunday, honoring the day that the Continental Congress designated the first design of the flag.
At the American Legion ceremony, the commanders placed three flags in a metal bin after a formal ceremony of salutes and prayers, and they were doused with kerosene and lit on fire. The Islip Fire Department burned about 100 of the 1,000 old or tattered flags collected by the American Legion Post over the past year.
The rest of the flags would be sent to Calverton National Cemetery, which has flag retirement ceremonies a couple of times per year, said Matthew Stahl, outgoing commander of Post 411.
Stahl, who served in the Army during the Vietnam War, said: "To see the flag tattered and faded, it's a shame to let it stand out there. To see people throw them in the garbage -- that is just wrong."
In the morning at the same spot, the Elks Club Lodge 2533 held its annual Flag Day ceremony, celebrating the history of the flag. Boy Scouts held up past versions of the U.S. flag.
Bruce Trezise, a trustee of the Elks Club lodge, said the "day helps celebrate the birth of the flag." All Elks Club chapters are required to honor Flag Day.
Pete Militello, 69, of Bay Shore, stood with DeLuca and John Diaz, 85 of East Islip, a Korean War Veteran. "It makes me proud, standing with them," he said. "They're the greatest generation, and now they're few and far between."
American Legion Sgt. at Arms Bob Romano, 72, of Islip, said standing there, presenting the flag before the fire, brought back memories of old friends.
"I feel like all the soldiers are there with me who have fought wars. And we're showing respect," he said.