Riverside complaint leads to flag-folding recitation ban
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) – Flag-folding recitations by Memorial Honor Detail volunteers are now banned at the nation’s 125 veterans graveyards because of a complaint about the ceremony at Riverside National Cemetery.
During thousands of military burials, the volunteers have folded the American flag 13 times and recited the significance of every fold to survivors.
The first fold represents life, the second a belief in eternal life, and so on.
The complaint revolved around the narration in the 11th fold, which celebrates Jewish war veterans and “glorifies the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.”
The National Cemetery Administration then decided to ban the entire recital at all national cemeteries. Details of the complaint weren’t disclosed.
Administration spokesman Mike Nacincik said the new policy outlined in a Sept. 27 memorandum is aimed at creating uniform services throughout the military graveyard system.
He said the 13-fold recital is not part of the U.S. Flag Code and is not government-approved.
Veterans and honor detail volunteers, including Bobby Castillo, 85, and Rees Lloyd, 59, are furious.
“That the actions of one disgruntled, whining, narcissistic and intolerant individual is preventing veterans from getting the honors they deserve is truly an outrage,” Lloyd said. “This is another attempt by secularist fanatics to cleanse any reference to God.”
World War II Navy veteran Castillo said it’s “a slap in the face to every veteran.”
“When we got back from the war, we didn’t ask for a whole lot,” Castillo said. “We just want to give our veterans the respect they deserve. No one has ever complained to us about it. I just don’t understand.”
Lloyd and Castillo are part of a 16-member detail that have performed military honors at more than 1,400 services. They were preparing to read the flag-folding remarks at the Riverside cemetery when graveyard staff stopped them.
Charlie Waters, parliamentarian for the American Legion of California, said he’s advising memorial honor details to ignore the edict.
“This is nuts,” Waters told the Press-Enterprise by telephone from Fresno. “There are 26 million veterans in this country and they’re not going to take us all to prison.”
Nacincik said that while the flag-folding narrative includes references to God that the government does not endorse, the main reason for the new rules is uniformity.
“We are looking at consistency,” Nacincik said. “We think that’s important.”
Rabbi Yitzhak Miller of Temple Beth El said he understands the ban.
“It is a perfect example of government choosing to ignore religion in order to avoid offending some religions,” Miller said. “To me, ignoring religion in general is just as problematic as endorsing any one religion.”