ARLINGTON (CBS 11 NEWS)  – Tom Lavoie walked in circles, trying to compose himself.

Strolling down the sidewalk in Arlington, moments earlier, he had glanced toward a standing dumpster, with its door left open.

“The color of red caught my attention,” he said.

Inside lay an American flag, crumpled amid the trash.

“I was completely beside myself,” he said.

As a young U.S. Navy officer, Lavoie had vowed to protect the flag.

As the son of two Marines, he’d learned to respect it.

“My father… hung a flag in the yard every day, took it down every night.  We folded the flag properly every day,” said Lavoie.

Years later, when his mother died, the U.S. Marines gave his family a folded flag in honor of her service, before burying her at the National Cemetery in Virginia.

Seeing that flag, torn and trashed, Lavoie was furious.

“It’s just disgust. It’s just extremely upsetting and outrageous that someone would do this to a flag.”

A local business, using the dumpster to dispose of construction materials, said it had noticed various people had begun disposing of their own items in the dumpster.

The owner, though, said he was unaware

“It’s very troubling to me,” said the owner, who asked us not to use his name.

Since Lavoie was 8 years old, though, he said he’s known how to dispose of the stars and stripes, properly.

Now that the flag is in his hands, that’s what he plans to do.

The U.S. Flag Code says, when it is no longer fit to display, a flag should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

Anyone unsure how to do that can deliver their used flags to a local Boy Scout office, American Legion, or VFW post.

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