Folding the Flag: How It Honors Our History

Today is President’s Day, and I’m forever grateful to our Founding Fathers who made it possible for us to live in America today. But I’m also forever grateful to our military men and women – and their families – and the sacrifices they all make to keep us free.

DSC03968I got a fresh reminder of that at a memorial service this weekend for a member of my husband’s extended family who was a Vietnam veteran. Even though I was only around him a few times since marrying into the family, I remember him being a warm, caring, and funny man. That was emphasized ten-fold during his service as people spoke again and again about his love for family, friends, and God; his willingness to offer help before it was even asked for; and how everyone always knew he was a friend who “had your back.”

He was also very active with local groups supporting Vietnam veterans and disabled veterans, which I hadn’t known. But, it didn’t surprise me because of the kind of man he was. Several veterans participated in the service, but a good number of others attended out of respect and love for him. That says a lot.

Maybe it was because I haven’t been to a military service in a few years, but the ceremonial parts were especially touching. Each of his military friends still carried themselves with pride and with ingrained habits, from their measured steps to curling their fingers as they stood with their arms by their sides. And there’s still something special about a military person in dress uniform, no matter how gray the hari might be.

All of it got me thinking about the history behind parts of the service, which of course meant I went Googling. And I learned some interesting things along the way …

  • Draping the casket (or table, at a memorial service) with the national flag began during the Napoleonic Wars in 1796-1815. The dead were covered with a flag when they were carried from the field of battle on a caisson.
  • The U.S. flag is placed so the union blue field is at the head and over the left shoulder of the person who served. It is not allowed to touch the ground.
  • The familiar Taps tune is a variation of an earlier bugle call. It was composed by General Daniel Butterfield of the Union Army during The Civil War. Originally used to signal “lights out,” the somber tune became a traditional way to honor service members, eventually becoming a staple at funeral services to honor the extinguishing of a life.
  • After Taps has been played during the servcie, the flag is carefully folded into the symbolic tri-cornered shape. A properly proportioned flag will fold 13 times on the triangles, representing the 13 original colonies. The folded flag is emblematic of the tri-cornered hat worn by the Patriots of the American Revolution. When folded, no red or white stripe is to be evident, leaving only the blue field with stars.
  • Each of the 13 folds of the flag symbolizes something in particular. To read about each one, visit this page on the American Legion’s website .
  • The folded flag is then presented as a keepsake to the next of kin or an appropriate family member. Each branch of the Armed Forces uses its own wording for the presentation. You can read them here on the Military Salute website.

folded flagAfter an American flag has been used for a military or veteran’s funeral, it should never be flown again or displayed in any other way than the tri-fold shape it’s folded into before being presented to the family.

I’m proud that we have the flag from my father-in-law’s service and am even more proud of what it stands for, now that I’ve had my history refresher. God bless America, and all the men and women who work so hard to keep us free.

Your turn: What is the most moving part of a military funeral or memorial service for you?

Categories: Historical Monday, Monday Musings | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Scripture Saturday: 1 John 4:19

Love is in the air this weekend, but we all know where the first and best love originated. Happy Valentine’s Day!

1 John 4 19

 

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Sharing Some Library Love

McD first library

This was the first library in my home town of McDonough. I don’t know when it was built, but vaguely remember visiting it when I was really small — dim lighting, creaky wide plank floors, the musty smell of books. At that time the librarian was one of my great-great aunts on my mom’s side of the family. Today it’s in Heritage Park on the outskirts of town with several other historic county buildings.

I saw on a list of February holidays and observances that this is Library Lovers Month! Yay, I love libraries because they have all those books! And people who know how to help you find just what you’re looking for instead of wading through a zillion search results on Google.

My mom used to take my sister and me to the local library on a weekly basis, sometimes even more in the summer. I loved walking into that hushed place full of stories just waiting to be discovered.

So, in honor of Library Lovers Month, here are a few important dates that got Georgia’s libraries off the ground and moving toward where they are today.

  • 1809 – Savannah Library Society opens a subscription library where members of the society pay a fee for use of the library. The fees collected go toward the operation and maintenance of the library.
  • 1837 – The General Assembly establishes the Georgia State Library from the Georgia Supreme Court’s collection of books
  • 1874-1882 – Subscription libraries open in Macon, Valdosta, Americus, and Brooks County
  • 1889 – The Mary Willis Free Library – the first free public library in Georgia – opens in Washington. It’s funded by Dr. Francis T. Willis and named for his only daughter.
  • 1893-1917 – Andrew Carnegie, through his library program, donates funds to build free public library buildings across the United States. Carnegie libraries were built in many Georgia cities during this time, including Atlanta, Albany, Columbus, Dublin, Montezuma, Moultrie, Newnan, Pelham, Savannah, Cordele, Americus, Dawson and Fitzgerald.
  • 1897 – The General Assembly establishes the Georgia Library Commission to oversee all libraries in the state. Georgia was the first Southern state to act on their citizens’ need for free public library service.
    1924-1925 – The Georgia Library Commission conducts a Vacation Reading Club for rural children from first grade through high school. Was this the first Summer Reading Program like I loved so much (and had my kids do for years)?
    1938 – The first bookmobile service is introduced in Thomas County as a WPA (Works Projects Administration) demonstration project.
probate court

A new McDonough library opened in 1973, and it’s the one I remember from my growing-up years. Today it houses the county probate court offices.

There are lots of other steps along the way to where our libraries are now, but I won’t get into all of those here. 🙂 The latest statistics I found for Georgia libraries were from 2008, which included:

 

  • Georgia currently has 59 library systems serving all 159 counties with 385 service outlets and 20 bookmobiles.
  • We have 33 regional library systems providing library service to 133 counties, and 26 single-county library systems.
  • 48 library systems with 275 service outlets are part of the PINES network (which began in 2004), providing a borderless library for Georgians with a free PINES library card.
McD library today

The McDonough library (and county administrative offices) today. Some of the books I loved as a kid are still on the shelves!

So, maybe we can all try to visit a library in the next couple of weeks to celebrate Library Lovers Month. I’m sure they would appreciate it!

Your turn: What do you love most about libraries? What was your favorite thing about visiting the library as a child? Or, what do you enjoy about going there as an adult?

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Historical Monday, Historical research | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scripture Saturday: Matthew 11:28

Matthew 11 28

This guy was trudging up a sand dune near our condo when we visited the beach last fall. He kept going until he got to a burrowed-out spot, then backed into it and settled down. There are lots of days when I could use some of his determination to keep going, or learn how to let someone else help carry some of the load. How about you?

 

Categories: Scripture Saturday, Scripture verses | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment
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