The Flag of the United States Marine Corps

US marine corps flag

The emblem of the United States Marine Corps is one of the most recognizable symbols in America. The Corps accepts only the most elite, dedicated soldiers, and that dedication truly lasts a lifetime. Marines proudly display the Corps emblem on their vehicles, their clothing and even their skin!

The flag of the Marine Corps flies outside homes across the country, showing support for the members of this elite group that protects our country. While the flag displays the iconic emblem, there are also other important features to understand on this proud banner and the history behind its creation. Continue reading

Patriotic Decorations for Memorial Day

Memorial Day is just around the bend, bringing with it a time to reflect on those who died in active military service defending our country. For nearly 150 years, we have gathered in the late spring to honor the sacrifice of those who have given their lives to the military services and the defense of our country.

Though the first commemorative events weren’t held in the United States until the 10th century, the practice of honoring those who have fallen dates back thousands of years. It dates all the way back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held annual days of remembrance for loved ones each year, including their soldiers. Continue reading

Celebrate Armed Forces Day with Military Gifts

Armed Forces Day has been recognized as an official national holiday since 1961. America celebrates Armed Forces Day on the third Saturday of May every year, and in 2017, May 20th is the day to remember.

Since Armed Forces Day is not far off, many of us want to find the perfect gift to show our love and support for the U.S. military and their families. Showing support by visiting military air shows and attending patriotic parades it a wonderful way to spend the day. Giving a gift, however, serves as a constant reminder of our American pride all year long.

American flag against blue sky Continue reading

American Flag Décor Ideas for Patriots Day

Patriots Day is considered one of the most important celebrations in Massachusetts and Maine, due to the rich history associated with the day. As a result, most residents of these states use the day off to truly celebrate, hosting and attending parties and festivities with fellow revelers. Here are some suggestions for how to utilize American flag décor for all your Patriots Day celebrations, whether you are hosting or attending as a guest. Continue reading

Soldier Care Packages for the Holidays

The season of giving is approaching.  This year, wouldn’t it be nice to have a focus for your charity instead of just giving random pockets full of change?  By choosing to donate to items for care packages, you can make one or more soldiers’ holiday brighter.

If you don’t know anyone in the service or families of those serving, it can be difficult knowing what to give or where to send your packages.  There are websites that can help you choose to whom to send your packages.  You should look into the websites to ensure who will receive your donations.

Sites like OperationCarePackages.org have many different ideas and options for donation.  There are options to send to veterans, those in service, wounded soldiers, and soldiers’ families, as well.  Operation Gratitude has several different donations that you can participate in, including a Halloween candy drive!  You can send packages of loose candy your family has collected, as well as unopened packages of toothbrushes and floss.  They ask that you ship these items out before November 15th.

soldier care package

For those who can’t spare a lot, they ask for Christmas cards, and, from children who aren’t comfortable with writing in cards, they ask for drawings. The site even has pages to print and color in, as well as some crafts that you can do to send them. Sending these personal messages of gratitude means a lot. Those interested in letter writing can even do so year round.

OperationCarePackages.org is just one of the sites that accept donations for care packages. For holiday donations or one-time donations or letters, Adoptaussoldier.org has a program as well as all-year programs for those who are willing and able to do so. There are also other sites that you can look at with ideas on what soldiers and wounded soldiers would like to be sent to them.

To figure out what to send in your package, these sites have a requested list, with some things that you may not think of; for instance, postage.  It is not cheap to send packages to those abroad or across the country. While people are kind enough to send items, money is needed to ship them to the soldiers. The average shipping cost is $18 to ensure that these boxes will be sent out.  Sending stamps or a check for postage will help all those donations get to the people they were  intended for.

santa claus ornament

If you do want to create a care package for a soldier, there are many things to think about.  Sending cards or other games can brighten a soldier’s day. While they may not have a lot of free time, entertainment can be a big part these peoples’ lives; a pack of cards is easily stored and quickly packed.

Depending on where they are stationed, sending movies for them to watch can be a welcome distraction for them. Without a specific list of items, it can be hard to know what movies to send but, if you stick to comedies or romances, you should be safe. There are a few stores with discounted bins of movies where you can find some good new and classic titles.

While you are picking out movies, snacks are a welcomed treat to go with your film picks.  Remember that not all food travels well, so look for snacks like Slim Jims or pre-packaged snacks. Bags of coffee or individual packages of coffee, hot chocolate, and cider packages are delicious treats. If you light up when you see a case of Little Debbie snacks, just imagine how nice it will be for a soldier abroad.  Even sending some holiday decorations can brighten their day.

snowman-ornament

Even sending more practical items to those who are stationed will be appreciated.  It can be nice to get some of the personal care products that we take for granted, like balm for their hands and new socks which wear down easily. Phone cards are a great present to help soldiers and their families keep in touch.

practical items for soldier donations

These donations are greatly appreciated no matter the size or the cost.  Sending these care packages is a great way show your support for our troops.  Remember to send your items early in the season but, if you can’t, donations are accepted year-round.

US army soldiers asking for donations

You Are Not Forgotten

2000px-United_States_POW-MIA_flag.svgIn rear windows, on motorcycles, flying on flag poles in front of businesses and homes, the POW-MIA flag has become an iconic symbol in America for the nation’s concern for military personnel missing and unaccounted for in foreign wars. The idea for such a flag was first thought of by Mary Helen Hoff, wife of Navy pilot Lieutenant Commander Michael Hoff who had been missing in action in Vietnam since January 7, 1970.

Hoff was a member of the National League of POW/MIA Families, an organization whose sole mission is “to obtain the release of all prisoners, the fullest possible accounting for the missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains of those who died serving our nation during the Vietnam War in Southeast Asia.” Created in 1969 by the wives of POWs in Southeast Asia, their purpose was originally to raise awareness about the mistreatment of POWs, and it grew into much more.

Feeling as though the organization needed a standard in which to spread the message of the organization, Hoff called the world’s oldest, well-known flag maker Annin Flagmakers in Verona, New Jersey. The company was honored to be chosen to make such a flag, representing so much for many families across the United States. They took it to their advertising agency to design, and the assignment was given to one of the graphic designers.

In 1972, Newt Heisley created the design for the now famous flag. Heisley was a veteran himself, a pilot in World War II who flew C-64 transports for the 433rd Troop Carrier Group and earned the bronze star for his service. He modeled the silhouette profile we readily recognize in the POW-MIA flag after his son who, at the time, was serving in the Marine Corps. In an interview with the Colorado Springs Gazette in 1997, Heisley told reporters that the flag “was intended for a small group. No one realized it was going to get national attention.”

But that’s exactly what happened. The flag was used to keep the POW-MIA issue fresh in the minds of Americans across the country. Finally, Congress passed a law in 1990 stating the flag was now recognized “as a symbol of our Nation’s concern and commitment to resolving as fully as possible the fates of Americans still prisoner, missing, and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. Thus ending the uncertainty for their families and the Nation.” It is now widely accepted to represent not only prisoners and missing from Southeast Asia, but all foreign wars.

Aside from Congress putting into law the recognition of the POW-MIA flag, many states have made it mandatory to fly the flag on state government buildings. Idaho became the first state to require the flag to be flown on flagpoles in front of every state building, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week  “or until such time as all our unaccounted for and missing members of the Armed Forces return.” The message “You are not forgotten” is being sent loud and clear, coast to coast, and felt in the heart of every American.

Honoring Our Fallen: The American Flag Presentation

Cemetary American FlagEveryday men and women join our Armed Services, some making the ultimate sacrifice in laying down their lives.  The worst moment in any spouse, parent, or child’s life is seeing the uniformed soldier walk up to your front door, knowing exactly what it is they are about to tell you.  You heart races, a churning in your stomach, knowing the person you love most in the world has given their life to protect our country and freedom.

Families of The Fallen

For the comrades, the most difficult duty they ever perform is driving to the home of the fallen soldier’s parents.  Once they greet the family, they present a tri-folded American flag to commemorate the fallen soldier.  The soldier’s comrades will say something along the lines of, “Your son/daughter fought honorably. On behalf of the President of the United States, please accept this flag as a gift in appreciation for the sacrifice your son/daughter has made.”

The Burial Ceremony

To honor these heroes, the military has an established a beautiful burial ceremony, with slight differences depending on the branch of armed forces in which the fallen fought and died. The wishes of the fallen soldier and the family are always taken into consideration, to ensure the preferred religious requirements are included in the ceremony.

As a military funeral begins, the flags are lowered to half-mast, in honor of the soldier who died.  This gesture is often comforting to the family, knowing their departed loved one died for the country they loved, and that their memory will live on in every American by honoring his or her sacrifice.

Most funerals are presided over by a priest, minister, pastor or other religious figure, and they will speak comforting words about the fallen hero, including appropriate excerpts that are beautiful and heartening.  In a military funeral, some things remain the same across the different branches of service.

Traditionally, the American flag is laid across the casket, with the blue stars over the heart (left side) of the fallen hero.  Often, after the religious part of the ceremony has completed, there will be a 21 gun salute, while another soldier plays “Taps” on the trumpet.  This is the most saddening part of any funeral, as the notes played pull at your heartstrings like nothing else will.

The Folding of the Flag

While Taps is being played, officers from the deceased’s branch of service will take the edges of the flag and begin the 13 folds, which, since the inception of this tradition, have developed multiple meanings.  The most common words spoken by the officers are:

The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.

The second fold is a symbol of our belief in the eternal life.

The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veteran departing our ranks who gave a portion of life for the defense of our country to attain a peace throughout the world.

The fourth fold represents our weaker nature, for, as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in times of war for His divine guidance.

The fifth fold is a tribute to our country, for, in the words of Stephen Decatur, “Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong.”

The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

The seventh fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our republic.

The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered in to the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day.

The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood; for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great have been molded.

The tenth fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since they were first born.

The eleventh fold, in the eyes of a Hebrew citizen, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon, and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The twelfth fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost.

When the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, “In God we Trust.”

After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington, and the sailors and marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States, preserving for us the rights, privileges, and freedoms we enjoy today. You can read more scripts for the folding of the American flag.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the flag is presented to the next of kin, often the parents, spouse, or child of the fallen hero.  Depending on the branch of the Armed Services in which the deceased served, the phrase the officer says to the family upon presenting the flag may change a bit.  Below are the comforting words of appreciation used, courtesy of Military Salute:

U.S. Air Force:

“On behalf of the President of the United States, the Department of the Air Force, and a grateful nation, we offer this flag for the faithful and dedicated service of (Service Member’s rank and name).”

U.S. Army:

“This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”

U.S. Coast Guard:

“On behalf of the President of the United States, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s service to Country and the Coast Guard.”

U.S. Marine Corps:

“On behalf of the President of the United States, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s service to Country and Corps.”

U.S. Navy:

“On behalf of the President of the United States and the Chief of Naval Operations, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s service to this Country and a grateful Navy.”

These ceremonies are extremely emotional and often come too soon in a soldier’s life.  The best thing anyone can do is be sure to use a flag made by Americans, for Americans, to honor an American soldier. You can find the highest quality flags available at AmericanFlags.com, founded in Long Island, New York just one month after 9/11.

Honoring Our Fallen: The American Flag Presentation

military-funeralEvery day men and women join our Armed Services, some making the ultimate sacrifice in laying down their lives. The worst moment in any spouse, parent, or child’s life is seeing the uniformed soldier walk up to your front door, knowing exactly what it is they are about to tell you. You heart races, a churning in your stomach, knowing the person you love most in the world has given their life to protect our country and freedom.

For the comrades, the most difficult duty they ever perform is driving to the home of the fallen soldier’s parents. Once they greet the family, they present a tri-folded American flag to commemorate the fallen soldier. The soldier’s comrades will say something along the lines of, “Your son/daughter fought honorably. On behalf of the President of the United States, please accept this flag as a gift in appreciation for the sacrifice your son/daughter has made.”

To honor these heroes, the military has an established a beautiful burial ceremony, with slight differences depending on the branch of armed forces in which the fallen fought and died. The wishes of the fallen soldier and the family are always taken into consideration, to ensure the preferred religious requirements are included in the ceremony.

As a military funeral begins, the flags are lowered to half-mast, in honor of the soldier who died. This gesture is often comforting to the family, knowing their departed loved one died for the country they loved, and that their memory will live on in every American by honoring his or her sacrifice.

Most funerals are presided over by a priest, minister, pastor or other religious figure, and they will speak comforting words about the fallen hero, including appropriate excerpts that are beautiful and heartening. In a military funeral, some things remain the same across the different branches of service.

Traditionally, the American flag is laid across the casket, with the blue stars over the heart (left side) of the fallen hero. Often, after the religious part of the ceremony has completed, there will be a 21 gun salute, while another soldier plays “Taps” on the trumpet. This is the most saddening part of any funeral, as the notes played pull at your heartstrings like nothing else will.

While Taps is being played, officers from the deceased’s branch of service will take the edges of the flag and begin the 13 folds, which, since the inception of this tradition, have developed multiple meanings. The most common words spoken by the officers are:

The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.

The second fold is a symbol of our belief in the eternal life.

The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veteran departing our ranks who gave a portion of life for the defense of our country to attain a peace throughout the world.

The fourth fold represents our weaker nature, for, as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in times of war for His divine guidance.

The fifth fold is a tribute to our country, for, in the words of Stephen Decatur, “Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong.

The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

The seventh fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our republic.

The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered in to the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day.

The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood; for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great have been molded.

The tenth fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since they were first born.

The eleventh fold, in the eyes of a Hebrew citizen, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon, and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The twelfth fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost.

When the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, “In God we Trust.”

After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington, and the sailors and marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States, preserving for us the rights, privileges, and freedoms we enjoy today. You can read more scripts for the folding of the American flag.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the flag is presented to the next of kin, often the parents, spouse, or child of the fallen hero. Depending on the branch of the Armed Services in which the deceased served, the phrase the officer says to the family upon presenting the flag may change a bit. Below are the comforting words of appreciation used, courtesy of Military Salute:

U.S. Air Force: “On behalf of the President of the United States, the Department of the Air Force, and a grateful nation, we offer this flag for the faithful and dedicated service of (Service Member’s rank and name).”

U.S. Army: “This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”

U.S. Coast Guard: “On behalf of the President of the United States, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s service to Country and the Coast Guard.”

U.S. Marine Corps: “On behalf of the President of the United States, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s service to Country and Corps.”

U.S. Navy: “On behalf of the President of the United States and the Chief of Naval Operations, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s service to this Country and a grateful Navy.”

These ceremonies are extremely emotional and often come too soon in a soldier’s life. The best thing anyone can do is be sure to use a flag made by Americans, for Americans, to honor an American soldier. You can find the highest quality flags available at AmericanFlags.com, founded in Long Island, New York just one month after 9/11.