The flag was beautiful and in good shape.

So Brian Essen was a little surprised to see it in a collection box outside of Dugan Funeral Chapel in Fremont.

For almost two years, the funeral home has had a box in which area residents can drop off worn and tattered American flags for proper disposal.

When the flags are worn, the Veterans of Foreign Wars website states they must be burned and the ashes buried.

So the funeral home, which has a crematory, is able to do that.

And whenever possible, one of these flags is draped over the container of a veteran who has chosen cremation as his or her final wish.

“We honor the veteran — because the flag is so important to veterans — and we honor that flag with its final use of draping a veteran of our country,” said Essen, a partner of Dugan Funeral Services, Inc.

Since the funeral home first installed the box, it has received 1,271 flags.

“This is a number that has significantly exceeded our expectations, proving the need for this service in the Fremont area,” Essen said. “The response has been continual.

“People are flying flags and they are worn as they’re flown so the need is truly ongoing.”

Last week, a flag was dropped off with a note which said it was the flag of a woman’s late husband.

The flag had never been flown and was in good shape.

“I called the woman up and I said, ‘I have your flag and it seems a shame to dispose of it.’ And she said, ‘No, I don’t want it disposed of. I want it to go on the Avenue of Flags.’”

Essen was glad the woman put her and her late husband’s name with the flag so he could call and ask her what to do with it. Essen then gave this flag to Vern Gibson, an employee at Dugan Funeral Services, who’s also co-chairman of the Avenue of Flags.

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The Avenue of Flags is a display of American flags that line Military Avenue on holidays. The large flags are those presented to the families of deceased veterans.

While the collection box is intended as a drop-off container for people who want to have their worn American flags properly disposed of, Essen said those who want to donate their flag to the Avenue of Flags can leave their flags, too. They just need to attach a note so it can be directed to the right place.

“We’ll make sure it goes where it needs to go,” Essen said.

The drop-off box, which has a decorative wrap that resembles a flag, is in the south driveway of the funeral home at 751 N. Lincoln Ave.

Essen noted that people drop off flags of different sizes.

“You never know when you open the box what you’re going to get,” Essen said.

The water-tight box is checked a couple of times a week.

“We view it as a community service,” Essen said of the proper worn flag disposal, adding, “It’s wonderful to be able to honor the American flag and veterans in a special way.”

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News Editor

Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She covers news, features, religion stories and writes the weekly faith-based, Spiritual Spinach column.

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