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Winter Texan of the Week: Barry Smith

Mission Veteran Creates Program to Honorably Lay Flags to Rest

by Rocio Villalobos

According to Barry Smith, there are two things you have trouble getting rid of: a Bible and a U.S. flag. So with the help a few of his neighbors--and fellow veterans--at Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort, Smith helped to come up with a solution for the second problem.

Smith, a native Texan originally from Amarillo, retired from the U.S. Army after 25 years of service just under a decade ago and has been a full-time RVer with his wife ever since. It was during their travels that he became inspired to put a flag to rest in a proper manner.

“The wind is blowing this that, and the other, and you start to see flags that are tattered,” he said. “So, what do you do with them? You don’t just throw it in the trash. That flag stands for so many things.”

Upon settling into Bentsen Palm for the season, he brought up his concern of needing to have a deposit site for the tattered flags. Smith and the other residents decided to use a newspaper box.

“One of the ladies painted it for us, and one of the guys in wood shop fixed the front piece,” Smith said. “It was a group effort.”

That box now sits on the porch of the Welcome Center. In January, by the time most of the Park’s Winter Texans have arrived and had time to settle in, Smith helps conduct a Flag Retirement Ceremony.

“It’s a ceremonial burning of the flags, and it’s done in a very special, unique way,” he said. “It’s just a way we can dispose of the flags in a respectful manner--as it should be.”

For this upcoming ceremony, Smith plans to involve local Boy Scouts of America troops.

“This a really good program to have their help with, and we also want to get them out in public to be able to speak in front of a group,” he said. “We’re trying to incorporate as much as possible.”

Smith encourages every park to start something similar. If unable to, Smith welcomes everyone, Winter Texan or not, to go by Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort to drop off their flags.

“We’ll be happy to take their flags and retire them properly,” he said. “It’s been a really fun project, and I’m thankful to all the folks who helped out.”

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