One of our uncles died this week. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was given military honors at his burial.
Before this week, I hadn’t witnessed the U.S. flag presentation when the burial involved an urn rather than a casket.
The flag was carefully unfolded.
Taps played in the background. Our uncle had requested that the typical 21 shot salute not take place due to the rural nature of the cemetery. He knew that wee tots would be taking their naps at the time of the funeral and didn’t’ want them disturbed.
The flag was then carefully refolded in the tri-corner, 12-fold pattern used in military honors at funerals.
The refolding of the flag demands exactitude. It takes time. The last few folds ensure that the reinforced end strip is properly folded and tucked in to the remainder of the trifold.
It must then be carefully compressed to remove any remaining air that could cause the folds and tucks to loosen.
When folding is perfect, it is given to the senior military person who will present it to the urn of the deceased and then to their family. It obviously couldn’t be draped over a coffin because there wasn’t one. Careful handling ensures that the flag never touches the ground.
The presentation of the flag to the family is private but always includes the words, “From a grateful nation…”
The ceremony Is complete when the presenter bids his farewell to the family and exits the funeral proceedings.
I never tire of witnessing the reverence and precision of these presentations at funerals. Although the empty shell casings were absent from the flag at this funeral, the words of kindness and respect offered to our aunt, more than filled the vacuum of their absence.