Of significance to members of the armed forces, as well as to all patriotic Americans, is the U.S flag. When a veteran dies, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) donates a flag to drape the casket and honor the memory of that person who honorably served this country. After the funeral service, the flag is given to the next-of-kin as a keepsake.
When dad died on August 30, 2006, there were two American flags at his funeral. The one donated by the VA draped his coffin. The second flag was handed to me shortly before the service began and I held the gift, folded inside a small flat box, on my lap.
Before dad’s death, I had worked for former Chicago State Senator and Illinois Democratic Party Chairman, Gary LaPaille. Upon learning that my dad had died, a staff member from that office called me to ask if I would like to have the flag that had flown over the Capitol building on the day of dad’s death. Yes, I would. (The Capitol Building flag comes with a Certificate of Authenticity.) On the day of dad’s funeral, several of my former co-workers and boss arrived at the funeral home to pay their respect. One of them handed me the flag. Former Senator LaPaille made quite an impression on my mom.
Eight years later, after mom died, some of the contents of her home were distributed among my siblings and me. I can’t recall, during that time of sadness and confusion, who took the flag that had draped dad’s coffin. Perhaps it was one of my brothers, both of whom are military veterans. Nevertheless, I still have the flag that flew over the Capitol building on the day dad died.
Some national cemeteries have an Avenue of Flags where burial flags are flown on patriotic holidays. Families of veterans buried in the national cemeteries may donate the burial flag to be flown on those occasions.
When dad died, we had considered burying him at Arlington National Cemetery, but the length of time it takes for scheduling a burial at Arlington could take several weeks to several months and depends on many factors. Rather than wait, we had dad interred at Quantico National Cemetery.
I keep the Capitol flag, as I call it, stored in its original box. And only occasionally take out Old Glory to look at it. The red, white, and blue is still shiny and new. One day I will be joining dad in the hereafter, but before then, if time allows, I plan to donate the flag to Quantico.
There is no climactic ending to this story. It’s just that we are nearing Veterans Day, and I remember.