A story of a man and his flag. Happy Veteran's Day Darling.
"A man who is good enough to shed his blood for the country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards." ~Theodore Roosevelt~
My husband passed away on May 16th, 2010. He was 48 years old. He was USAF, United States Air Force, retired. He served our country for almost 22 years.
My husband was embroiled in a messy divorce, and all he wanted from his personal property was a flag. Not just any flag but his flag. A flag he fought for, a flag that he was awarded in a special ceremony on October 10, 1994, which also was his birthday. This was the day he was reenlisting in the Air Force. He stood on the U.S.S. Arizona with his father and his mother, and many members of the United States Armed Forces. He was going to take his Oath of Service beneath that flag that was raised high They had arranged the ceremony as a tribute not only for his father who was retired Navy, but all the veterans who had gone before or were to come after, their names are engraved in the wall at the east of the memorial. The flag was lowered respectfully slow. Folded precisely and escorted by a Staff Sergeant back to the squadron. It was a moment that characterized the type of patriotism felt not only by my husband but his father and all the other military men who stood there that day. The flag was later presented to my husband in a hand crafted display case created by a fellow service member in the Marine Corps that also felt the moment when he heard the story of the passing of the colors.
To my husband that was the day he pledged allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America. He served for almost 22 years. He was so proud of that flag and his quest in life was to bring it back to his home, after that divorce. It held many memories for him, memories of all the time he spent in the military.
He would spend hours writing his letters, to lawyers, to congresssmen, to anyone who would listen to him, on how to have his flag returned to him.
My husband passed away before he could have his flag returned to him.
During the planning of his funeral, I was told that the local VFW would provide a flag for his services, to be draped over his casket. Well that would have been good enough for me, and I was praying that it would serve him well. I had no other choices left to me. I thought that would have been an honor, for it was a brand new flag, this one would hold memories for me. It might not be the same for him, but this one would be special to me.
When I walked into the funeral home for his visitation, there he lay in his uniform, with that flag draped over his casket. A true tribute for my fallen hero.
All the flowers were done in red, white and blue, splayed in brilliance surrounding him.
And then it happened, one of his sons who had travelled many miles to come to his father’s funeral came up to me and with tears in his eyes said, “I brought my Dad’s flag, do you mind if I put it in the casket?”
Of course I didn’t mind, his flag was going home with him. It was lovingly placed in his casket, that flag that he fought so hard for, that flag that he had dedicated his life for, that flag that he pledged alliegence to all those years. He finally had his flag.
He was buried the next day at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood Illinois, with full military honors. What an impressive sight to behold. Taps played, amazing grace was played in the background by bagpipes. He received the 3-shot volley, The 3-volley salute is a ceremonial act performed at military funerals. It consists of a rifle party firing blank cartridges into the air three times. The custom originates from the European dynastic wars, where the fighting ceased so the dead and wounded could be removed. Then, three shots were fired into the air to signal that the battle could resume.
And then came the folding of the flag. Two members of the United States Air Force, two honor guards, men who were in the same branch of service as my husband, stood before me and folded the flag that draped over his casket. I did not know til much later, why they folded it thirteen times.
- The first fold of the flag is a symbol of life.
- The second fold of the flag is a symbol of the people's belief in the eternal life.
- The third fold of the flag is made in honor and remembrance of the Veteran departing ranks who gave a portion of life for the defense of the country to attain peace throughout the world.
- The fourth fold of the flag represents the people's weaker nature. For as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him the people turn to in times of peace as well as in times of war for His divine guidance.
- The fifth fold of the flag is a tribute to the country, for in the words of Stephen Decauter, “Our country, in dealing with the other countries, may she always be right, but it is still our country, right or wrong."
- The sixth fold of the flag is for where people's hearts lie. It is with hearts that people pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
- The seventh fold of the flag is a tribute to the Armed Forces, for it is through them that the people protect the country and flag against all enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of the Republic.
- The eighth fold of the flag is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that people might see the light of day, and to honor one's mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day.
- The ninth fold of the flag is a tribute to womanhood, for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty and devotion the character of the men and women who have made the country great molded.
- The tenth fold of the flag is a tribute to father, for he too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of the country since he or she was first born.
- The eleventh fold of the flag, in the eyes of Hebrew citizens, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
- The twelfth fold of the flag, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
- Upon the thirteenth and final fold of the flag, the stars are uppermost in remembrance of the United States' national motto, “In God We Trust.”
The young man, honor guard knelt before me out in there in the blazing sun, sweat pouring down his face, never looking uncomfortable in his full dress uniform, but proud of having such an honor to bestow. He held the flag waist high with the straight edge facing me, and said words that will be forever imprinted into my memory,
“On behalf of the President of the United States and the people of a grateful nation, may I present this flag as a token of appreciation for the honorable and faithful service your loved one rendered this nation.”
Of course his name was said, but I will leave that out for personal reasons.
With tears streaming down my face I accepted that flag. I was taking it home with me, to forever remind me of the duty my husband provided for our country. After all he had his to take home with him, and now I had one to always have with me.
In the end he finally got his flag.
And in the end I got one showing how much that flag meant to him.
This is my tribute to tell him, thank you for serving our country, and thank you for pledging allegiance to that flag.
Happy Veteran’s Day Darling.