|The flag folding
ceremony described by the Uniformed Services is a dramatic and uplifting way to
honor the flag on special days, like Memorial Day or Veterans Day, and is
sometimes used at retirement ceremonies. Here is a typical sequence of the
(Begin reading as Honor Guard or Flag Detail is coming forward).
The flag folding ceremony represents the same religious principles on which our
country was originally founded. The portion of the flag denoting honor is the
canton of blue containing the stars representing the states our veterans served
in uniform. The canton field of blue dresses from left to right and is inverted
when draped as a pall on a casket of a veteran who has served our country in
uniform. In the Armed Forces of the United States, at the ceremony of retreat
the flag is lowered, folded in a triangle fold and kept under watch throughout
the night as a tribute to our nation's honored dead. The next morning it is
brought out and, at the ceremony of reveille, run aloft as a symbol of our
belief in the resurrection of the body.
(Wait for the Honor Guard or Flag Detail to unravel and fold the flag into a
quarter fold--resume reading when Honor Guard is standing ready.)
The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life. The second fold is a symbol of
our belief in the eternal life.
The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veteran departing our
ranks who gave a portion of life for the defense of our country to attain a
peace throughout the world.
The fourth fold represents our weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting
in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in times of war for
His divine guidance.
The fifth fold is a tribute to our 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 sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we 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
The seventh fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed
Forces that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether
they be found within or without the boundaries of our republic.
The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered in to the valley of the
shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor mother, for
whom it flies on mother's day.
The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood; for it has been through their faith,
love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made
this country great have been molded.
The tenth fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and
daughters for the defense of our country since they were first born.
The eleventh fold, in the eyes of a Hebrew citizen, 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, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of
eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost.
When the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our
national motto, "In God we Trust."
text from the Institute of Heraldry)
In 1971, Mrs.
Mary Hoff, an MIA wife and member of the National League of American Prisoners
and Missing in Southeast Asia, recognized the need for a symbol of our POW/MIAs.
The flag is black, bearing in the center, in black and white, the emblem of the
League. The emblem is a white disk bearing in black silhouette the bust of a
man, watch tower with a guard holding a rifle, and a strand of barbed wire;
above the disk are the white letters POW and MIA framing a white 5-pointed star;
below the disk is a black and white wreath above the white motto:
ARE NOT FORGOTTEN
The flag has
been altered many times; the colors have been switched from black with white -
to red, white and blue, - to white with black; the POW/MIA has at times been
revised to MIA/POW.
9,1989, a POW/MIA Flag, which flew over the White House on the 1988 National
POW/MIA Recognition Day, was installed in the United States Capitol Rotunda as a
result of legislation passed overwhelmingly during the 100th session of
Congress. The leadership of both Houses hosted the installation ceremony in a
demonstration of bipartisan congressional support. This POW/MIA Flag, the only
flag displayed in the United States Capitol Rotunda, stands as a powerful symbol
of our national commitment to our POW/MIAs until the fullest possible accounting
for Americans still missing in Southeast Asia has been achieved.
10,1990, the 101st Congress passes U.S. Public Law 101-355, recognizing the
National League of Families POW/MIA Flag and designating it "as a symbol of
our Nation's concern and commitment to resolving as fully as possible the fates
of Americans still prisoner, missing and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. Thus
ending the uncertainty for their families and the Nation." Beyond Southeast
Asia, it has been a symbol for POW/MIAs from all American Wars.
passage of Section 1082 of the 1998 Defense Authorization Act during the first
term of the 105th Congress, the..... 'POW/MIA Flag' will fly each year on:
Armed Forces Day -
Third Saturday in May
Memorial Day - Last Monday in May
Flag Day - June 14
Independence Day - July 4
National POW/MIA Recognition Day - Third Friday in September
Veterans Day - November 11
Flag will be flown on the grounds or the public lobbies of major military
installations as designated by the Secretary of Defense, all Federal National
Cemeteries, the National Korean War Veterans Memorial, the National Vietnam
Veterans Memorial, the White House, the United States Post Offices and at
official offices of the Secretaries of State, Defense and Veteran's Affairs, and
Director of the Selective Service System. Civilians are free to fly
the POW/MIA Flag whenever they wish.
We've all heard the haunting song, "Taps."
It's the song that gives us that lump in our throats and usually creates tears in our
eyes. But, do you know one of the stories behind the song?
It all began in 1862 during the
Civil War, when Union Army Captain Robert Ellicombe was with his men near Harrison's
Landing in Virginia. The Confederate Army was on the other side of the narrow strip of
land. During the night, Captain Ellicombe heard the moans of a soldier who lay mortally
wounded on the field.
Not knowing if it
was a Union or Confederate soldier the Captain decided to risk his life to bring the
stricken man back for medical attention. Crawling on his stomach through the gunfire, the
Captain reached the stricken soldier and began pulling him toward his encampment. When the
Captain finally reached his own lines, he discovered it was actually a Confederate soldier
but the soldier was dead. The Captain lit a lantern and suddenly caught his breath and
went numb with shock. In the dim light, he saw the face of the soldier. It was his own
son. The boy had been studying music in the South when the war broke out. Without telling
his father, he enlisted in the Confederate Army.
morning, heartbroken, the father asked permission of his superiors to give his son a full
military burial despite his enemy status. His request was only partially granted.
The Captain had
asked if he could have a group of Army band members play a funeral dirge for his son at
the funeral. The request was turned down since the soldier was a Confederate but, out of
respect for the father, they did say they could give him only one musician. The Captain
chose a bugler.
He asked the
bugler to play a series of musical notes he had found on a piece of paper in the pocket of
the dead youth's uniform. This wish was granted. The haunting melody we now know as
"Taps" used at military funerals was born:
|Day is done, gone the sun
From the hills,
From the lake,
From the sky.
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh.
Fading light, dims the sight,
And a star,
Gems the sky,
From afar, drawing nigh,
Falls the night.
Thanks and praise, for our
Neath the sun,
Neath the stars,
Neath the sky.
As we go, this we know,
God is nigh.
For another version of the TAPS story, see:
24 Notes That Tap Deep Emotions
Turn on your speakers and refresh this webpage on your browser
to hear TAPS performed by the USAF Heritage of America Band
of Rupert Brooke"
by Joyce Kilmer
In alien earth,
across a troubled sea,
His body lies that was so fair and young.
His mouth is stopped, with half his songs unsung;
His arm is still, that struck to make men free.
But let no cloud of lamentation be
Where, on a warrior's grave, a lyre is hung.
We keep the echoes of his golden tongue,
We keep the vision of his chivalry.
Alfred Joyce Kilmer, who is best known for
his poem "TREES", was killed by a sniper in France
during World War One at the age of 31
Day originally began as Armistice Day to mark the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th
month when the shells stopped flying in 1918 marking the end of World War One "the
war to end all wars."
veteran of the 7th Battalion,
Fifteenth Field Artillery, Vietnam, salutes
our missing and dead during Veterans
Day 2000 ceremonies
"Mayor of Mudville" was serving
as Commander of American Legion
Post 47 in Holliston, Massachusetts
when this photo was taken
veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain
look in the eye.
Others may carry
the evidence inside them: a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the leg -
- - or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul's ally forged in the refinery of
parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem.
You can't tell a
vet just by looking.
What is a vet?
He is the cop on
the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the
armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel.
He is the barroom
loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed
a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th
She - or he - is
the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid
years in DaNang.
He is the POW who
went away one person and came back another - or didn't come back at all.
He is the
Quantico drill instructor that has never seen combat - but has saved countless lives by
turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to
watch each other's backs.
He is the
parade-riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.
He is the career
quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.
He is the three
anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National
Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies
unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.
He is the old guy
bagging groceries at the supermarket - palsied now and aggravatingly slow - who helped
liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to
hold him when the nightmares come.
He is an ordinary
and yet an extraordinary human being a person who offered some of his life's most vital
years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not
have to sacrifice theirs.
He is a soldier
and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest,
greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.
So remember, each
time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say "Thank
You." That's all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any
medals they could have been awarded or were awarded.
Two little words
that mean a lot, "THANK YOU".
It is the
soldier, not the reporter, Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the
soldier, not the poet, Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the
soldier, not the campus organizer, Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier
who salutes the flag - - who serves beneath the flag -- whose coffin is draped by the flag
and -- who allows the protester to burn the flag.
WHAT IS A VET?
is the origin of the 21-gun salute?
The use of gun salutes for military occasions is
traced to early warriors who demonstrated their peaceful intentions by placing their
weapons in a position that rendered them ineffective. Apparently this custom was
universal, with the specific act varying with time and place, depending on the weapons
being used. A North African tribe, for example, trailed the points of their spears on the
ground to indicate that they did not mean to be hostile.
The tradition of rendering a salute by cannon
originated in the 14th century as firearms and cannons came into use. Since these early
devices contained only one projectile, discharging them once rendered them ineffective.
Originally warships fired seven-gun salutes--the number seven probably selected because of
its astrological and Biblical significance. Seven planets had been identified and the
phases of the moon changed every seven days. The Bible states that God rested on the
seventh day after Creation, that every seventh year was sabbatical and that the seven
times seventh year ushered in the Jubilee year.
Land batteries, having a greater supply of
gunpowder, were able to fire three guns for every shot fired afloat, hence the salute by
shore batteries was 21 guns. The multiple of three probably was chosen because of the
mystical significance of the number three in many ancient civilizations. Early gunpowder,
composed mainly of sodium nitrate, spoiled easily at sea, but could be kept cooler and
drier in land magazines. When potassium nitrate improved the quality of gunpowder, ships
at sea adopted the salute of 21 guns.
The 21-gun salute became the highest honor a
nation rendered. Varying customs among the maritime powers led to confusion in saluting
and return of salutes. Great Britain, the world's preeminent seapower in the 18th and 19th
centuries, compelled weaker nations to salute first, and for a time monarchies received
more guns than did republics. Eventually, by agreement, the international salute was
established at 21 guns, although the United States did not agree on this procedure until
The gun salute system of the United States has
changed considerably over the years. In 1810, the "national salute" was defined
by the War Department as equal to the number of states in the Union--at that time 17. This
salute was fired by all U.S. military installations at 1:00 p.m. (later at noon) on
Independence Day. The President also received a salute equal to the number of states
whenever he visited a military installation.
In 1842, the Presidential salute was formally
established at 21 guns. In 1890, regulations designated the "national salute" as
21 guns and redesignated the traditional Independence Day salute, the "Salute to the
Union," equal to the number of states. Fifty guns are also fired on all military
installations equipped to do so at the close of the day of the funeral of a President,
ex-President, or President-elect.
Today the national salute of 21 guns is fired in
honor of a national flag, the sovereign or chief of state of a foreign nation, a member of
a reigning royal family, and the President, ex-President and President-elect of the United
States. It is also fired at noon of the day of the funeral of a President, ex-President,
Gun salutes are also rendered to other military
and civilian leaders of this and other nations. The number of guns is based on their
protocol rank. These salutes are always in odd numbers.
Source: Headquarters, Military District of
Washington, FACT SHEET: GUN SALUTES, May 1969.
Carry On Santa, All is Secure
was written by a Marine stationed in Okinawa
T'WAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS,
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, SILENT, ALONE, 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 SOON 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