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Recognizing the ultimate sacrifice


No matter how many times you see it, the flag-folding ceremony at the funeral of a veteran is powerful and emotional.

The most recent one I saw was performed by U.S. Marines in their dress blues, perhaps the most iconic uniform in all the U.S. military. The daughter of the deceased, the recipient of the flag, was, understandably, weeping.

I looked around the funeral home and saw very few dry eyes among the other attendees as well.

At this particular funeral, the deceased was 89 and had lived a long, full, happy life.

The ceremony is even more gut-wrenching when the soldier, sailor, Marine or airman is struck down in combat, in the prime of life.

While Veterans Day is the day we remember all U.S. military members, Memorial Day is set aside to specifically honor those who died in service to country. The families of those men and women are recognized as Gold Star families.

The most recent Las Crucen to die in combat was Antonio Rey Rodriguez, who passed Feb. 8, 2020, in Afghanistan. Rodriguez’s mother, family and friends have built a foundation to carry on his legacy, at www.arrfoundation.org. A golf tournament May 6 here in Las Cruces further added to the foundation.

Prior to that tournament, the local Marine Corps League detachment provided a gun salute to Rodriguez.

In our fast-paced, live-online, no-quiet-moments world, there seems to be very little room for ceremony.  But this Memorial Day, let’s set aside at least a moment of silence for our fallen.

A good meditation would be to look at the page from the Mesilla Valley Military Order of the Purple Heart in this edition of the Bulletin listing those from the region who were lost in battle.  Also powerful is the actual meaning of the 13 folds of the funeral flag ceremony, listed below.

  1. The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.
  2. The second fold signifies our belief in eternal life.
  3. The third fold is made in honor and tribute of the veteran departing our ranks, and who gave a portion of his or her life for the defense of our country to attain peace.
  4. The fourth fold exemplifies our weaker nature as citizens trusting in God; it is to Him we turn for His divine guidance.
  5. The fifth fold is an acknowledgement 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.”
  6. 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.
  7. 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 enemies.
  8. The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day and to honor our mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day.
  9. The ninth fold is an honor to womanhood, for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty and devotion that the character of men and women who have made this country great have been molded.
  10. The 10th fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since he or she was first-born.
  11. The 11th fold, in the eyes of Hebrew citizens, 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.
  12. The 12th 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.
  13. The last fold, when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, “In God We Trust.”