The stars and stripes have stood for freedom for as long as the symbol has flown. The American flag represents the freedoms granted to Americans through the sacrifices of those willing to fight for freedom.

Flag Day is a chance to celebrate that symbol and all that it has come to represent. The first Flag Day on June 14, 1923 was when the National Flag Conference established the U.S. Flag Code — the first set of federal regulations concerning the display and handling of the U.S. flag.

In Greenwood, two organizations will be working on Flag Day, one to celebrate the banner flying high, and the other to respectfully dispose of flags that are no longer in flying condition.

The Knights of Columbus at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church is sponsoring the S.C. Festival of Flowers Flag Day Ceremony from 6 to 7 p.m. Friday in front of Howard’s on Main. The feather-topped chapeaus adorning the knights’ heads and ceremonial swords at their hips are the regalia of the highest order in the Knights of Columbus, said local member Dave Putman.

The Knights of Columbus are an international Catholic fraternal organization championing four basic tenets, known in the group as “degrees.” The degrees, in order, are charity, fraternity, unity and patriotism, and each represents a new tier for members in the order.

“Only fourth-degree knights may wear the color guard uniforms,” Putman said. “Many Catholic veterans and military men ascend to the fourth degree. Only about 10 percent of KC’s are fourth degree, but many of them are veterans.”

This highest rank comes with certain responsibilities and expectations, including assisting in special masses at the church, performing color guard duties at brother knights’ funerals and participating in events, such as parades and Friday’s Flag Day celebration.

“We value very highly the freedoms that we have in the United States, one of which is to publicly celebrate the flag that represents the sacrifices made to give us these freedoms,” Putman said.

While the Knights of Columbus will celebrate the flag flying high, the flag code says that once a flag is damaged to the point where it’s no longer fitting for display, it should be respectfully destroyed. The preferred method, according to the flag code, is by burning.

That’s what American Legion Post 20 members do annually on Flag Day, gathering to dispose of the flags they’ve collected from people throughout the community. Terry Weeks, of Post 20, said this year’s retirement ceremony will be at 10 a.m. Friday at the Lander Legion Hall — the former Post 20 building at 806 Calhoun Ave.

“Everyone is invited to this ceremony, as we retire the flags with the dignity they deserve,” Weeks said. “We don’t just put the flags in a burn pile; we handle it with some ceremony and respect.”

Anyone with flags to be retired can drop them off at the green drop box behind the Greenwood County Veterans Center, or the box at the Greenwood County Library. There’s another box at the American Legion Post 224 building at 1310 E. Cambridge Ave.

Contact staff writer Damian Dominguez at 864-634-7548 or follow on twitter @IJDDOMINGUEZ.