Norwich receives collection box for retired flags

February 20, 2019

Norwich — Alderwoman Joanne Philbrick pulled open the mailbox-style door and became the first customer to use the city’s new flag retirement drop box presented Tuesday by Young Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Mason McMahon.

As she slipped an old, faded flag, neatly folded, into the box, Philbrick announced: “I’m here in honor of my brother.” Her brother, Oliver James Peters, a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps and a Vietnam veteran, died last July.

McMahon, 17, organized a pasta dinner fundraiser and solicited support from local veterans’ groups and businesses to purchase the metal flag collection box. He custom designed the lettering and images of eagles on each side panel.

The project was one of his last requirements to earn the Young Marines Distinguished Order of Merit award, the equivalent of Eagle Scout. Members of the Three Rivers Young Marines will collect the deposited flags on a regular basis and retire them during their annual Flag Retirement Ceremony on Flag Day.

McMahon raised about 1,300, leaving enough money to purchase 40 new 3-by-5-foot American flags to be donated to the first people who drop retired flags into the box.

“I felt this was a great idea,” McMahon said to the two dozen people attending Tuesday’s presentation, “because we need something like this, because so many flags are not retired properly.”

McMahon, son of Laura and Patrick McMahon of Norwich and an 11th-grader at Norwich Free Academy, said he plans to attend college and major in construction management. McMahon joined the Young Marines at age 9.

State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, a Navy veteran, asked McMahon to do one more thing for his community — return after college or military service and run for public office locally.

“If you choose to do that,” Osten said, “I’ll work on your campaign.”