DEAR ABBY: You advised "Wondering in Concord, N.H." (Dec. 29) that "as long as the flag is treated with respect -- taken down at night, and not allowed to become tattered and faded because of exposure to the elements -- it would be a loving tribute to (her) friend if it were displayed."
Although I could not find it in any flag etiquette site, it is customary that a flag used on a casket never be unfolded. It was folded and presented as an honor to the deceased soldier/Marine and should be unfolded only by God. This is a sentimental tradition, not a rule or law.
My husband has the flag that draped his brother's casket. He would probably kill before he would let someone unfold it. -- DAWN IN HAMPTON, ILL.
DEAR DAWN: If I was incorrect in my reply, thank you for correcting me. However, you are not the only reader who wanted to weigh in on this subject, and the suggestions I have received are varied. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I belong to three veterans organizations. Most veteran posts, American Legion, AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars will take a memorial flag and either fly it or dispose of it properly. -- ROBERT O., RICE LAKE, WIS.
DEAR ABBY: A better answer to "Wondering" would be to buy a triangular display case and place the very important gift of the American flag from the friend on the mantel or a table in his/her home. What a topic of conversation it would become in memory of a dear friend. -- RESPECTFUL IN OHIO
DEAR ABBY: "Wondering" could, if she so desires, donate the flag to a military cemetery. In Battle Creek, Mich., we have Fort Custer, a veterans cemetery, and I donated the flag given to me at my grandfather's funeral to it. There is an "Avenue of Flags" as you enter the cemetery, and it's a very moving sight to see all these flags flying in the breeze, knowing that people gave their lives for them. -- SANDY E., KALAMAZOO, MICH.
DEAR ABBY: After my father died, my mother donated his flag to a local memorial cemetery. Every Memorial Day the flags are brought out, pressed, and hung on flagpoles lining the driveways and walkways.
Friends, family and the community are invited to a memorial service for all of our fallen men and women. Some come alone; others have family gatherings under the flags.
My father's flag has flown every Memorial Day for the last 23 years. It's a great way to pay tribute and very reassuring to know his flag is being cared for properly. -- VETERAN'S DAUGHTER IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR ABBY: As someone who is currently in the military and deeply rooted in its culture, I have to disagree with your answer to "Wondering in Concord, N.H."
Flags given at a memorial service signify something that goes above and beyond the meaning of an ordinary flag. It is not uncommon, and usually considered a special tribute, for them to be flown for a day over special locations in memory of that individual.
However, it is not appropriate for memorial flags to be used in a daily capacity, and certainly should not be flown over the house of someone who, in all likelihood, didn't know the person. That would be like using someone's tombstone because you needed a big rock for something.
Although the flag itself is just cloth, it symbolizes that the individual made a huge sacrifice of him- or herself that everyone in this country benefits from. If all they need is a flag, I will gladly buy them one in exchange for the honor of caring for the flag of a fallen brother. -- DEVLIN B., SNEADS FERRY, N.C.