I’ve presided at five funerals since June 9th, four of which were for active church members. It has been both physically and emotionally draining.
But Friday’s funeral brought up a long-held pet peeve of mine, and that I do want to gripe about.
“On behalf of the President of the United States, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's service to Country and Corps.”
I saw this coming. The soldier on the lead end had made a six-inch fold before beginning the triangle folds. I knew it would not come out right. But there was nothing I could do. They also did not hold the flag taut throughout the folding, so it was rather puffy. I remained stoic as the two soldiers tugged and pulled and finally did a short tuck that held it all together long enough to present it to the widow.
‘On behalf of the President of the United States, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and a grateful nation, please accept this wadded up ball of fabric that had once been a crisp, new American flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's service to Country and Corps.’
This problem is not limited to the Marine Corps. I have done funerals for veterans from every branch of the military, and with only a couple rare exceptions, the flag-folding ceremony has been a major embarrassment.
--At one funeral, the Honor Guard came up with too much fabric at the end; the effort to tuck it all into the triangle looked like two fat people fighting over the last donut in the box!
--At another funeral, a commander of the Honor Guard stood nearby to oversee the folding, and to inspect the flag before presenting it to the widow. The folding went so poorly, he made them unfold it and start over, right there in front of the grieving family and gathered congregation. I noticed the commander was wearing a side arm; I was hoping he would use it!
--And at a couple funerals, I swear the funeral home just found a few street people and put them in wrinkled and ill-fitting uniforms they happened to have in the trunk of the car!
I recently asked a soldier about this problem. He said the role of Honor Guard was rotated through a platoon, so while they were all supposedly “trained”, few were experienced enough to do it right.
Doing a little online research, I came across a video made by a husband-and-wife team who run a small flag shop. The husband claimed that this video would demonstrate how to properly fold the flag. The husband held the union end of the flag. As the camera panned down the length of the flag, it caught the wife holding the other end under her chin as she grasped for fabric to make the first fold.
They, too, ended with extra fabric, which they stuffed into the fold like it was a garbage bag.
Now, I ask you, dear reader: If you were making an informational video designed to be patriotic as well as promote your business, wouldn’t you do enough takes until you got it right?
I’m just sayin’…