Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Why You Got the Flag

It was a TV show, ending in a graveside military flag presentation. I've seen it countless times on TV and in movies. I've been there myself. This time I had a marginally different perspective.

The officer handing the folded flag to the grieving widow saluted. I wondered for the first time whether, when the recipient is a veteran, do they salute back? How about if they are active military? Did Steve salute when handed our father's flag? I was sitting right next to him and I didn't notice.

I do remember the decision to have the flag handed to him. It surprised me that there was even a question. Steve was the next generation veteran in the family and I just assumed that his was the honor and responsibility of receiving and caring properly for it. He'd do the job.

Today I realized it went further than that. I believe the only reason I was even in consideration for receiving it was that at the end our dad was living with me. If I thought anything about what was behind whether I should receive the flag, it would be that somehow I had "earned" it for taking care of him, at least in others' eyes. It wasn't that way in mine.

Steve was more than welcome to have the flag as a keepsake, as a way to remember and honor him that would be especially meaningful to him.  I had those two extra years of memories and getting to know the young person our dad had been as he reverted back to his childhood as he failed, something to keep and honor him by.

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