On Flag Day, 2021, three long tables were heaped high with tattered American flags waiting to be ceremonially retired on Monday in a field near the Western Montana Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

Susan Campbell Reneau introduced Boy Scouts from Troop 1911, as well as veterans who stoked the flames into which the flags would be lowered with reverence by all who participated.

Representatives of two out of three of our Congressional delegation provided comments before the ceremony.

Dan Critten read a message from Congressman Matt Rosendale.

“On June 14 1777, the second Constitutional Congress officially adopted the flag of the United States of America,” wrote Rosendale. “The flag’s designers carefully and wisely chose red, white and blue as its colors symbolizing Americans hardiness and valor, purity and innocence, vigilance, perseverance and justice. These are the core values on which our nation was built and continue to guide us to this day.”

Rosendale continued with his comments.

“Our flag is the most recognized symbol of freedom, justice and prosperity worldwide,” he wrote. “May we continue to ensure that Old Glory waves free and proud for generations to come, as we remember Betsy Ross, Francis Scott Key and those who have sacrificed everything to preserve it.”

Also sending a message for the ceremony was Montana’s junior Senator Steve Daines, read by Dan Jessop.

“For nearly 250 years, the American Flag has served as a distinguished symbol of freedom with its 13 alternating red and white stripes, and it's white stars that stand out in the field of blue,” wrote Daines. “These colors were chosen as they symbolize valor, purity, vigilance and justice. All values we cherish.”

Daines also pointed to America’s history represented by the flag.

“The American flag flies brilliantly atop our greatest buildings and monuments it sits boldly atop the moon in outer space,” he wrote. “It's raised every morning in our nation's schools. It hangs proudly from the front porches of millions of homes on quiet streets across the country. It has borne the scars of battle in places like Yorktown, Fort McHenry, Gettysburg and Iwo Jima, and it drapes the caskets of our fallen heroes today.”

There was no message provided by Montana’s senior Senator Jon Tester.

Following the messages, a recorded tribute to the flag was played.

After the flags are burned, the ashes will be preserved and placed in the graves of veterans as they are laid to rest at the Western Montana Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

LOOK: 50 essential civil rights speeches

Many of the speakers had a lifetime commitment to human rights, but one tried to silence an activist lobbying for voting rights, before later signing off on major civil rights legislation. Several fought for freedom for more than one oppressed group.

Keep reading to discover 50 essential civil rights speeches.