Everything you always wanted to know about Flags
Flags have often played a key role in the burial services of troops in America and around the world. For those who have loved ones in battle, these flags remind them that the departed’s service was not in vain. It stands as a symbol of how the deceased fought bravely, and died so that others would not have to, and that they sacrificed their lives so that freedom might be preserved.
Before the funeral the deceased’s comrades perform one of the saddest duties they will ever have to do. As they drive to the departed’s parent’s home, they present them with a flag. Automatically, as tears well up in the family members eyes, they know that these flags mean that their son or daughter has fallen in combat.
“Your son fought honorably,” they will often say, “please accept this flag as a gift from the President of the United States.”
During a military funeral, flags are lowered to half-mast. This comforts loved ones, as they reflect on how much the departed loved his country. This ritual also reminds them that in a very meaningful way, the deceased lives on through every American that honors his sacrifice.
As this is going on, a group of between 10 and 12 officers will gather together and place a flag over the casket. Typically these flags will completely cover the caskets. As they are doing this, their fellow officers will initiate a 21 gun salute. This is sometimes concluded by the firing of a cannon, a tradition dating back to America’s British roots. All the while, as this is going on, another officer will play “Taps,” on a trumpet, as the flags wave in the background.
Patriotic favorites are then sung as well, including the National Anthem, “Faith of Our Fathers,” and the song of the departed’s branch of the service. As the service continues, two servicemen will fold the flag in a ceremonial way.
“As a representative of the United States (branch of service),” an officer will kneel before the next of kin and say,” it is my high privilege to present to you this flag. Let it be a symbol of the appreciation this nation feels for the distinguished service rendered to our country, and to our flag by your loved one.”
Sometimes there is no next of kin, and in these cases, the departed’s closest friend must make arrangements with the Veterans of Foreign Wars office, so that he will be presented with the flag at the funeral.
Many loved ones will keep these flags in a special place after the funeral is over as a reminder of the departed’s service in battle. To add to their beauty, some family members will also have the flag lined with gold. Many will also order a special flag case. These flag cases are often quite lovely and come in a wide variety of options, including walnut and mahogany. Some are smooth and polished, while others are ornate and intricate. Regardless of design, they all serve to preserve and protect not only the flag, but the memory of the fallen soldier that the flag then represents. A brass plate with the deceased’s branch of the military can also often be placed on the side, and a Presidential proclamation can be secured from the VFW office. In many instances, these flags become family heirlooms for years to come.
As a gesture of kindness, out of respect for servicemen who have given their lives to defend America, it has also become a tradition among many funeral home owners to present the departed’s loved ones with ceremonial ballpoint pens with flags on the end of them. This is often seen by family members as a well needed gesture of support, and can make them feel more comfortable, showing them that the funeral home owner really does care about them and their loss.
Military funerals and flags are available for veterans as well, regardless of when they served. This is good news for all of the men and women who served proudly in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.
Along with military funerals, there are also other times throughout the year when flags are flown at half mast. These are Peace Officers Day, (May 15th) from sunrise until noon on Memorial Day (the last Monday in May), on Patriot Day (Sept. 11), and on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. These days are particularly important for the loved ones of a departed serviceman. As they hold the flags in their hands, these days allow them to feel proud of the departed’s sacrifice, and to cope with their loss.
For military men, a flag is an important symbol of their dedication to the cause of freedom. If they are killed in battle, they take comfort in the fact that at least the flag, and all that it stands for, will live on still, in part because of them. At military funerals, flags serve to remind loved ones of everything that the departed stood for in his life, and his strength, courage, and integrity. For the sake of freedom, he was wise and brave when he ran in where angels fear to tread, in order that innocents need not die. Also, flags show the survivors that a part of him lives on, as his memory inspires all who loved him to be strong, and have courage, even when it seems that the whole world is against them.