Neatly Folded Flags

November 08, 2013
A neatly folded flag is displayed in a hand-made walnut frame in my office.  It is the flag that draped the casket of World War II veteran Paul A. McAlpin of Selmer, Tennessee, who lived to the ripe old age of 92.  I am proud to have custody of it for a while.  

Paul was my uncle by virtue of his marriage to my grandfather’s sister, and so he was not a blood relative.  But he was my favorite uncle.  He and my aunt never had children of their own, so they took up with some of their nieces and nephews, or perhaps I should say they allowed some of their nieces and nephews to take up with them.

Paul was drafted into the Navy at age 38.  Think about that for a minute.  He served honorably from 1943-1945, came home, and resumed his civilian life.  Paul was a colorful but unassuming man, and a lot of fun to be around.  Among other things, he helped me learn how to waterski, how to paint a fence, how to play cards, and how to grill a good hamburger.  He was generous.  He was a good citizen. He was a devoted churchman.  He knew how to take care of a dollar.  He considered his military service to be a difficult but important season of life that was his lot to perform and to perform honorably. 

There are other veterans in my family, too; one of my grandfathers served in the Navy in World War I; my father was combat wounded in the Army in Korea; my father-in-law served in the Marine Corps training new officers; one of my sons served in the Air Force as an aviator; another of my sons served as an Infantry Marine with combat deployment to the Middle East.

All served sacrificially and with honor, each responding to an internal call to give of themselves in this way.  Each would consider their military service in the same way Paul McAlpin did; a difficult but important season of life that was their lot to perform and to perform honorably.  And each one has.  

The oath of office sworn by members of our military is solemn and grave, and remarkably similar to the oath of the Commander in Chief.  It leaves little room for interpretation or compromise except by those who, to their shame, do it dishonor by failing to take it seriously.  The text of the oath is as follows:

“I, ______________, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.  So help me God.

Ponder the words of this oath when you come across current or former members of our military.  Don’t miss a chance to thank those who have served.  And pray for those currently serving.  They need our prayers, our support, and our encouragement today more than at any time in my lifetime, and perhaps more than at any time in our history.   Pray for the civilian leaders of our military, that they might have Godly wisdom and always walk the high and honorable road.  And pray for the soul and spirit of our nation, that the righteousness of Almighty God would sweep from sea to shining sea and that His grace and mercy would be shed upon us.  We need it.

There are untold numbers of neatly folded flags displayed in homes and offices throughout the land.  A real person and a special story is behind each one.  We extend our grateful thanks to those who have rendered honorable service in our country’s uniform and under her flag.

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