The Meaning Of Flag Draped Caskets
Here is how to understand the flag that is laid upon the casket of a veteran and is surrendered to so many widows and widowers.
Do you know that at military funerals, the 21-gun salute stands for the sum of the numbers in the year 1776?
Have you ever noticed the honor guard pays meticulous attention to correctly folding the United States of America Flag 13 times? You probably thought it was to symbolize the original 13 colonies, but we learn something new every day!
The 1st fold of the flag is a symbol of life.
The 2nd fold is a symbol of the belief in eternal life.
The 3rd fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing the ranks who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of the country to attain peace throughout the world.
The 4th fold represents the weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in time of war for His divine guidance.
The 5th fold is a tribute to the country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, ‘Our Country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong.’
The 6th fold is for where people’s hearts lie. It is with their heart that they pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States Of America, and the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.
The 7th fold is a tribute to its Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that they protect their country and their flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of their republic.
The 8th fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day.
The 9th fold is a tribute to womanhood, and Mothers. For it has been through their faith, their love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great has been molded.
The 10th fold is a tribute to the father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of their country since they were first born.
The 11th fold represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies in the Hebrews eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The 12th fold represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in the Christians eyes, God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.
The 13th fold, or when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost reminding them of their nations motto, ‘In God We Trust.’
After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a @#!*% hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington, and the Sailors and Marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones, who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States, preserving for them the rights, privileges and freedoms they enjoy today.
There are some traditions and ways of doing things that have deep meaning. In the future, you’ll see flags folded and now you will know why.
As I came out of the supermarket that sunny summer afternoon, and pushed my cart of groceries toward my car, I saw an old man standing next to his car. The hood of the car was up and the passenger door was open. A lady, that looked to be the old man’s wife, was sitting inside the car.
The old man was looking into the engine compartment of the car. I put my groceries away in my car, and stopped to watch the old gentleman from about twenty five feet away.
I saw a young man in his early twenties with grocery bags in his arms walking toward the old man. The old gentleman saw him too, and took a few steps toward him. I saw the old gentleman point to the open car hood and say something.
The young man put his groceries into what looked like a brand new Cadillac Escalade, turn back to the old man and yell at him: ‘You shouldn’t even be allowed to drive a car at your age.’ Then, with a wave of his hand, the young man got into his car and peeled rubber out of the parking lot.
I saw the old gentleman mop his brow with the handkerchief that he had pulled from his pocket, turn and walked back to his car to look at the engine again. Then he went to speak with his wife. It looked like he was telling her that everything would be all right.
I had seen enough, and approached the old man. He saw me coming and stood up straight. As I got near to him I said, ‘Looks like you’re having a problem.’
He smiled sheepishly, and quietly nodded his head.
I looked under the hood, and knew that whatever the problem was, it was beyond me. I looking around, and saw a gas station up the road. I told the old man that I would be right back, and drove to the station. I went inside where I saw three attendants working on cars. I approached one of them, and related the problem that the old man was having with his car. I offered to pay him to follow me back to where I had left the old couple and take a look at their car. He turned, spoke a few words to one of the other mechanics, and the two of them got into their tow truck.
When the three of us got back to the old couple, the old man had pushed the heavy car under the shade of a tree and appeared to be comforting his wife. When he saw us coming he straightened up and thanked me for my help. As the mechanics diagnosed the problem (overheated engine), I spoke with the old gentleman.
He said that when we had shaken hands earlier he had noticed my Marine Corps ring, and told me that he had been a Marine too. I nodded and asked the usual question, ‘What outfit did you serve with?’
He told me that he had served with the First Marine Division… at Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, and Iwo Jima.
He had hit all the big ones and retired from the Corps after the war was over. As we talked we heard the car’s engine start and saw the mechanics lower the hood. As they came over to us the old man reached for his wallet.
I told him I would put the bill on my AAA card.
He took a card from his wallet and handed it to me. Assuming that it had his name and address printed on it, I stuck it into my pocket without looking at it. We shook hands all around, and I said my goodbye’s to his wife.
I told the mechanics that I would follow them back to the station. When we arrived back at the station, I told them that, since they had interrupted their own jobs to come with me to help the old man, I wanted to pay them.
They refused my offer, and told me that they were both Marine Corps Reserves. I thanked them and once again we shook hands all around. As I was leaving, one of the mechanics pulled a card from his pocket that looked exactly like the one the old man had given to me. He told me that I should look at the card the old man had given to me.
I said I would and drove off. After driving a couple of blocks, I pulled over, took the card from my pocket and looked at it for a long, long time. The name of the old gentleman was on the card in golden leaf and under his name was written: ‘Congressional Medal of Honor Society.’
I sat there motionless, looking at the card and reading it over and over. I looked up from the card and smiled to no one but myself and marveled that on this day, four Marines had come together because one of them needed help. I felt honored to have been in the presence of this old man, to have stood next to greatness and courage.
It is important to remember that old men like him have insured America’s freedom. Take a moment to thank those who served and still serve, and those who supported them, and continue to support them. America is not at war, the U.S. Military is at war… America is at the mall. If you don’t stand behind our troops, please feel free to stand in front of them!
Remember also that freedom isn’t free. Thousands have paid the price, so that you may enjoy what you have today.
God our Father: Walk through my house and take away all my worries; watch over and heal my family; protect our freedoms, and watch over our troops, who are defending those freedoms. Amen
An Airline Captain Writes
My lead flight attendant came to me and said, “We have an H.R. on this flight.” (H.R. stands for human remains.) “Are they military?” I asked.
‘Yes’, she said.
‘Is there an escort?’ I asked.
‘Yes, I already assigned him a seat’
‘Would you please tell him to come to the flight deck. You can board him early,’ I said.
A short while later, a young army sergeant entered the flight deck. He was the image of the perfectly dressed soldier. He introduced himself and I asked him about his soldier. The escorts of these fallen soldiers talk about them as if they are still alive and still with us.
‘My soldier is on his way back to Virginia ,’ he said. He proceeded to answer my questions, but offered no words.
I asked him if there was anything I could do for him and he said no. I told him that he had the toughest job in the military and that I appreciated the work that he does for the families of our fallen soldiers. The first officer and I got up out of our seats to shake his hand. He left the flight deck to find his seat.
We completed our preflight checks, pushed back and performed an uneventful departure. About 30 minutes into our flight I received a call from the lead flight attendant in the cabin.
‘I just found out the family of the soldier we are carrying is on board,’ she said. She then proceeded to tell me that the father, mother, wife and 2-year old daughter were escorting their son, husband, and father home. The family was upset because they were unable to see the container that the soldier was in before we left. We were on our way to a major hub at which the family was going to wait four hours for the connecting flight home to Virginia. The father of the soldier told the flight attendant that knowing his son was below him in the cargo compartment and being unable to see him was too much for him and the family to bear. He had asked the flight attendant if there was anything that could be done to allow them to see him upon our arrival. The family wanted to be outside by the cargo door to watch the soldier being taken off the airplane. I could hear the desperation in the flight attendants voice when she asked me if there was anything I could do.
‘I’m on it,’ I said. I told her that I would get back to her.
Airborne communication with my company normally occurs in the form of e-mail like messages. I decided to bypass this system and contact my flight dispatcher directly on a secondary radio. There is a radio operator in the operations control center who connects you to the telephone of the dispatcher. I was in direct contact with the dispatcher. I explained the situation I had on board with the family and what it was the family wanted. He said he understood and that he would get back to me.
Two hours went by and I had not heard from the dispatcher. We were going to get busy soon and I needed to know what to tell the family. I sent a text message asking for an update.
I saved the return message from the dispatcher and the following is the text:
‘Captain, sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. There is policy on this now and I had to check on a few things. Upon your arrival a dedicated escort team will meet the aircraft. The team will escort the family to the ramp and plane side. A van will be used to load the remains with a secondary van for the family. The family will be taken to their departure area and escorted into the terminal where the remains can be seen on the ramp. It is a private area for the family only. When the connecting aircraft arrives, the family will be escorted onto the ramp and plane-side to watch the remains being loaded for the final leg home. Captain, most of us here in flight control are veterans. Please pass our condolences on to the family. Thanks.’
I sent a message back telling flight control thanks for a good job.
I printed out the message and gave it to the lead flight attendant to pass on to the father.
The lead flight attendant was very thankful and told me, ‘You have no idea how much this will mean to them.’
Things started getting busy for the descent, approach and landing. After landing, we cleared the runway and taxied to the ramp area. The ramp is huge with 15 gates on either side of the alleyway. It is always a busy area with aircraft maneuvering every which way to enter and exit. When we entered the ramp and checked in with the ramp controller, we were told that all traffic was being held for us.
‘There is a team in place to meet the aircraft’, we were told.
It looked like it was all coming together, then I realized that once we turned the seat belt sign off, everyone would stand up at once and delay the family from getting off the airplane. As we approached our gate, I asked the copilot to tell the ramp controller we were going to stop short of the gate to make an announcement to the passengers.
He did that and the ramp controller said, ‘Take your time.’
I stopped the aircraft and set the parking brake. I pushed the public address button and said, ‘Ladies and gentleman, this is your Captain speaking. I have stopped short of our gate to make a special announcement. We have a passenger on board who deserves our honor and respect. His name is Private XXXXXX, a soldier who recently lost his life. Private XXXXXX is under your feet in the cargo hold. Escorting him today is Army Sergeant XXXXXXX. Also, on board are his father, mother, wife, and daughter. Your entire flight crew is asking for all passengers to remain in their seats to allow the family to exit the aircraft first. Thank you.’
We continued the turn to the gate, came to a stop and started our shutdown procedures. A couple of minutes later I opened the cockpit door. I found the two forward flight attendants crying, something you just do not see. I was told that after we came to a stop, every passenger on the aircraft stayed in their seats, waiting for the family to exit the aircraft. When the family got up and gathered their things, a passenger slowly started to clap his hands. Moments later more passengers joined in and soon the entire aircraft was clapping. Words of ‘God Bless You’, I’m sorry, thank you, be proud, and other kind words were uttered to the family as they made their way down the aisle and out of the airplane. They were escorted down to the ramp to finally be with their loved one.
Many of the passengers disembarking thanked me for the announcement I had made.
They were just words, I told them, I could say them over and over again, but nothing I say will bring back that brave soldier.
I respectfully ask that all of you reflect on this event and the sacrifices that millions of our men and women have made to ensure our freedom and safety in these United States of AMERICA.
As a Viet Nam Veteran I can only think of all the veterans including the ones that rode below the deck on their way home and how they we were treated.
When I read things like this I am proud that our country has not turned their backs on our soldiers returning from the various war zones today and give them the respect they so deserve.
A prayer for our Military…They die for me and mine and you and yours and deserve our honor and respect.
Prayer: ‘Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands. Protect them as they protect us. Bless them and their families for the selfless acts they perform for us in our time of need. Amen.’
Not A Dry Eye
Last week I was in Atlanta, Georgia attending a conference. While I was in the airport, returning home, I heard several people behind me beginning to clap and cheer. I immediately turned around and witnessed one of the greatest acts of patriotism I have ever seen.
Moving through the terminal was a group of soldiers in their camos. As they began heading to their gate, everyone (well almost everyone) was abruptly to their feet with their hands waving and cheering.
When I saw the soldiers, probably 30-40 of them, being applauded and cheered for, it hit me. I’m not alone. I’m not the only red-blooded American who still loves this country and supports our troops and their families.
Of course I immediately stopped and began clapping for these young unsung heroes who are putting their lives on the line everyday for us so we can go to school, work and home without fear or reprisal.
Just when I thought I could not be more proud of my country or of our service men and women, a young girl, not more than 6 or 7 years old, ran up to one of the male soldiers.
He kneeled down and said, ‘Hi.’
The little girl then asked him if he would give something to her daddy for her.
The young soldier, who didn’t look any older than maybe 22 himself, said he would try and what did she want to give to her Daddy.
Then suddenly the little girl grabbed the neck of this soldier, gave him the biggest hug she could muster and then kissed him on the cheek.
The mother of the little girl, who said her daughter’s name was Courtney, told the young soldier that her husband was a Marine and had been in Iraq for 11 months now.
As the mom was explaining how much her daughter Courtney missed her father, the young soldier began to tear up.
When this temporarily single mom was done explaining her situation, all of the soldiers huddled together for a brief second.
Then one of the other servicemen pulled out a military-looking walkie-talkie. They started playing with the device and talking back and forth on it.
After about 10-15 seconds of this, the young soldier walked back over to Courtney, bent down and said this to her, ‘I spoke to your daddy and he told me to give this to you.’ He then hugged this little girl that he had just met and gave her a kiss on the cheek. He finished by saying ‘your daddy told me to tell you that he loves you more than anything and he is coming home very soon.’
The mom at this point was crying almost uncontrollably and as the young soldier stood to his feet, he saluted Courtney and her mom.
I was standing no more than 6 feet away from this entire event.
As the soldiers began to leave, heading towards their gate, people resumed their applause.
As I stood there applauding and looking around, there were very few dry eyes, including my own.
That young soldier in one last act of selflessness, turned around and blew a kiss to Courtney with a tear rolling down his cheek.
We need to remember everyday all of our soldiers and their families and thank God for them and their sacrifices.
At the end of the day, it’s good to be an American.
A Letter From Santa
by An Un-named Marine
TWAS THE NIGHT,
HE LIVED ALL ALONE,
IN A ONE BEDROOM HOUSE MADE OF
PLASTER AND STONE.
I HAD COME DOWN THE CHIMNEY
WITH PRESENTS TO GIVE,
AND TO SEE JUST WHO
IN THIS HOME DID LIVE.
I LOOKED ALL ABOUT,
A STRANGE SIGHT I DID SEE,
NO TINSEL, NO PRESENTS,
NOT EVEN A TREE.
NO STOCKING BY MANTLE,
JUST BOOTS FILLED WITH SAND,
ON THE WALL HUNG PICTURES
OF FAR DISTANT LANDS.
WITH MEDALS AND BADGES,
AWARDS OF ALL KINDS,
A SOBER THOUGHT
CAME THROUGH MY MIND.
FOR THIS HOUSE WAS DIFFERENT,
IT WAS DARK AND DREARY,
I FOUND THE HOME OF A SOLDIER,
ONCE I COULD SEE CLEARLY.
THE SOLDIER LAY SLEEPING,
CURLED UP ON THE FLOOR
IN THIS ONE BEDROOM HOME.
THE FACE WAS SO GENTLE,
THE ROOM IN SUCH DISORDER,
NOT HOW I PICTURED
A UNITED STATES SOLDIER.
WAS THIS THE HERO
OF WHOM I’D JUST READ?
CURLED UP ON A PONCHO,
THE FLOOR FOR A BED?
I REALIZED THE FAMILIES
THAT I SAW THIS NIGHT,
OWED THEIR LIVES TO THESE SOLDIERS
WHO WERE WILLING TO FIGHT.
SOON ROUND THE WORLD,
THE CHILDREN WOULD PLAY,
AND GROWNUPS WOULD CELEBRATE
A BRIGHT CHRISTMAS DAY.
THEY ALL ENJOYED FREEDOM
EACH MONTH OF THE YEAR,
BECAUSE OF THE SOLDIERS,
LIKE THE ONE LYING HERE.
I COULDN’T HELP WONDER
HOW MANY LAY ALONE,
ON A COLD CHRISTMAS EVE
IN A LAND FAR FROM HOME.
THE VERY THOUGHT
BROUGHT A TEAR TO MY EYE,
I DROPPED TO MY KNEES
AND STARTED TO CRY.
THE SOLDIER AWAKENED
AND I HEARD A ROUGH VOICE,
‘SANTA DON’T CRY,
THIS LIFE IS MY CHOICE;
I FIGHT FOR FREEDOM,
I DON’T ASK FOR MORE,
MY LIFE IS MY GOD,
MY COUNTRY, MY CORPS.’
THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER
AND DRIFTED TO SLEEP,
I COULDN’T CONTROL IT,
I CONTINUED TO WEEP.
I KEPT WATCH FOR HOURS,
SO SILENT AND STILL
AND WE BOTH SHIVERED
FROM THE COLD NIGHT’S CHILL.
I DIDN’T WANT TO LEAVE
ON THAT COLD, DARK, NIGHT,
THIS GUARDIAN OF HONOR
SO WILLING TO FIGHT.
THEN THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER,
WITH A VOICE SOFT AND PURE,
WHISPERED, ‘CARRY ON SANTA,
IT’S CHRISTMAS DAY, ALL IS SECURE.’
ONE LOOK AT MY WATCH,
AND I KNEW HE WAS RIGHT.
‘MERRY CHRISTMAS MY FRIEND,!
AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT.’
The Final Inspection
The Soldier stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.
‘Step forward now, Soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My Church have you been true?’
The soldier squared his shoulders and said,
‘No, Lord, I guess I ain’t.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can’t always be a saint.
I’ve had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I’ve been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.
But, I never took a penny,
That wasn’t mine to keep…
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills got just too steep.
And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear..
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I’ve wept unmanly tears.
I know I don’t deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.
If you’ve a place for me here, Lord,
It needn’t be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don’t, I’ll understand.
There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the Soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.
‘Step forward now, you Soldier,
You’ve borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven’s streets,
You’ve done your time in @#!*% .’
It’s the Soldier, not the reporter who has given us the freedom of the press.
It’s the Soldier, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech.
It’s the Soldier, not the politicians, that ensures our right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
It’s the Soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag.
If you care to offer the smallest token of recognition and appreciation for the Military, Please pray for our men and women who have served and are currently serving our country and pray for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for freedom…These colors don’t run. Amen!
We live in the land of the free, only because of the brave!
God Bless Our Military.
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