On an April afternoon this year, my family laid the remains of my father to rest in the Dallas National Cemetery with full honors accorded his decorated World War II service. My father, my entire family was exceptionally proud of his service to our country and Dad’s greatest wish of all was to be buried next to his fellow veterans in the National Cemetery, a final act he planned and protected for more than a decade in every possible detail.
The incredible beauty of the day’s glorious sunshine was met only by the beauty and reverence of the attending Memorial Honor Guard, who so carefully and precisely folded our Flag of the United States after conclusion of Taps and before presenting the flag to my mother. “Ma’am, this flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation as an expression of appreciation for the honorable and faithful service rendered by your loved one. I offer you our deepest condolences.”
I wept with a passion I haven’t had since childhood. Despite our gift that Dad lived to the age of 83 active years, I was absolutely crushed to have lost my wonderful father, my greatest mentor, and realize at the age of 46 my childhood had finally come to an end. And when I could collect myself enough to walk, I made my way to the two Honor Guards, shook each of their hands and expressed how deeply I appreciated their service and personal sacrifices to my country and the presence and care before my own family that day. Doing so fulfilled a promise to my father he absolutely demanded me to keep.
“Treasure the living and honor the dead,” was but one of Dad’s axioms drilled into my earliest memories regarding his military brethren.
In what is reported as thousands of military funerals across this country, the flag-folding ceremony has included a 13-part recital corresponding with each of the 13 folds of the American flag before presentation to the family. The recital is steeped in tradition born somewhere in the 1950’s (soon after “Under God” was added to our Pledge of Allegiance) that I have personally witnessed only four times in my lifetime: at two military retirement ceremonies, in downtown Grapevine, Texas during a flag-folding ceremony on Memorial Day, 2003, and again in downtown Grapevine, Texas on Flag Day, June 14, 2004.
The ceremony is beautiful and holds deep meaning for me due to my upbringing and lifelong deep respect for all of our soldiers and their families. The entire script of the Flag Folding Ceremony is given and explained here. So it matters not at all to me that the ceremony is “unofficial” and in apparent violation of The Establishment Clause within the First Amendment to our Bill of Rights. On a private-sector basis — certainly at a family’s personal request for the funeral of their beloved serviceman — if this ceremonial recital is wanted, it should be given.
So I’m a wee bit perplexed to read the recital tradition is hereby summarily quelled, banned by the Veterans Administration as the result of ONE complaint made by ONE individual attending a military funeral in Riverside, California at the National Cemetery there. The ban extends to each of the 125 National Cemeteries in the United States.
Of course, the VA is not releasing any information about this fellow’s complaint, just that the ban is in place now, according to a late September memorandum from the VA on the issue that directed the National Cemetery Administration to enact a streamlined, uniform policy for burials. We do know this chap took umbrage to the 11th stanza of the recital, somehow being apparently demeaned by the tribute to Jewish servicemen in its glorification of “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” Or perhaps it was the 12th stanza of the recital, in tribute to Christians, that the 12th fold “represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost.”
Unless rescinded, families will no longer have this recital option afforded them if they hold burial services at our nation’s national cemeteries, nor even at private services by military personnel. I am heartened to see retired veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion haven’t the slightest intention of following the VA/Official Government ban.
This brings another of my father’s famous axioms to mind: “It is the sins of the few that impact the freedoms of the masses.”
What’s next? Banning the white crosses and Stars of David from the National Cemeteries, too?
Ed Morrissey has more at Captain’s Quarters.
WordNetDaily has an in-depth post on the secularist insanity.
HotAir has its own take.
First-term Congressman Heath Schuler of North Carolina has penned a letter with 11 other Congressional signatories requesting the VA reconsider its ban, with more developing under this thread from Fox News.
Do you find this ban as reprehensible as I do? Then, by all means, join this petition to request President Bush rescind the VA’s ACLU-driven knee-jerk action to quell one Left Coast activist’s highly successful attack against survivor’s wishes to honor their fallen military sons and daughters, husbands and wives. And spend a couple of moments out of your day to voice your disgust to your Senators and Congressional Representatives.
Update: The furor is building in Washington…
Update: Sword-At-The-Ready has information that is a MUST READ, including a pdf file link to the purported VA Memo from Muro of September 27 provided to him by REES LLOYD, Attorney and Jr. Past Commander District 21 (Cal), Director, Defense of Veterans Memorials Project of The American Legion Dept. of California. Would it surprise you to know that Sword-At-The-Ready offered his first post on this subject TWO WEEKS AGO???