The Gift of Preserving The Memory of An Unknown Veteran’s Life & Sacrifice With Their Funeral Flag

(If you’re going to do something that could be mistaken as nothing more than virtue signaling, make sure the signal is something that truly holds virtue, virtue for those who came and sacrificed before us on behalf of our own people.)

It was three years in the making since I promised my neighbor a flag for the Holidays.  Each year before this one, some circumstance had always gotten in the way of trying to do good by a fellow American who lives in my neighborhood.

The home he and his family live in was previously occupied by a United States Air Force veteran who maintained a flagpole in the front yard.  That veteran served in the Korean War, and since he moved away, my neighbor hasn’t flown a flag on that pole.

In times past, this would have caused great frustration and anger for me, but in recent times, I have come to realize that perhaps my neighbor was never fully shown or taught the importance of our country’s flag, or even how or when to properly fly it, throughout his life.  I have since realized these are good teaching moments, and something that can instill a bond between the people who served and those people whose rights, freedoms, and lives they served to protect.

Last month, I ventured to ask if my local Veterans of Foreign Wars of The United States (VFW) Post could assist me in acquiring an American made American flag for my neighbor for the Holidays.  What I got from VFW Post 10093 in Safety Harbor, Florida is a veteran’s funeral internment flag.

Provided free of charge from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) during an official military burial, this flag is presented to the next of kin of a veteran who has passed away.  My VFW Post has been accepting a good amount of flags needed for proper disposal, but the Post has also been receiving these brand new flags from families of dead veterans.

I am unsure of the circumstances of how or why, but this flag was given away by the unknown veteran’s family.  Not to be improper, I wanted to know if it was appropriate to allow this flag to unfold once more and fly freely on American soil.  After some research, to include looking at the United States Flag Code, particularly its interpretation from The American Legion, I found that there was nothing stating that flying an internment flag was improper.  I also found that the VA has an official program throughout the country, where veterans can donate their flags in their last will and testament so that the VA can fly those flags during designated Holidays and other functions on VA properties all across America.  In particular, this function occurs at our country’s National Cemeteries quite often.

So why not set that precedent in one’s own village, in one’s own neighborhood, with the help of a neighbor, a previous neighbor and veteran who installed a flagpole to support this activity, and someone like me (or maybe even someone like you)?

So I got the flag ready on my grandmother’s dining room table.

I made sure this flag’s folds were tight as though it were presented to the unknown family of the unknown veteran just yesterday.  After 0100 hours (1am) on the morning of 26 December 2018, with my usual insomnia giving me its usual abuse, I penned a short and honest letter from my heart, by my own hand, to my neighbor and his family across the street.

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(Transcript of my hand written letter:

26 December, 2018
Neighbor,

As previously promised, here is a very special American flag for Christmas and Yule.  The flag is a veteran funeral internment flag.  A dead veteran’s family came to my VFW Post, VFW Post 10093 in Safety Harbor, and gave away their flag.
I do not know the circumstances behind why the flag was given away, but needless to say, one of two things would have happened to this flag: it would have collected dust forever until disintegration, or it would have been properly disposed of before reaching that point.  Either way, the flag’s importance would have been forgotten.

Either way, the memory of the American veteran would have been forgotten.

Neighbor, I ask that you receive this flag in honor, and fly it during national holidays, especially on Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Veterans’ Day.  If you need help with anything related to flying this flag, never hesitate to knock on our home’s front door across the street.  Merry Christmas.  Happy Yule.
Your neighbor at 1715,
Eric, [signature])

With the letter finished, I folded it and slipped it into the folds where the spent rifle ammunition shells from the unknown veteran’s funeral previously laid in state.

I quietly marched across the street at quick time with flag in my hands, respectfully placed the flag onto my neighbor’s porch, rendered the flag a courteous salute, marched back across the street to my own home, my arms swinging with each marching step in the crisp winter breeze.  I closed my family’s front door, and sat down to write this article.

Merry Christmas and Happy Yule, America.  I’m going to try to get some sleep now.

-EJH

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