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Training and Education Command

United States Marine Corps
Pride in honoring those who served

By Pfc. Deanne P. Hurla | | July 11, 2006

MCRD/ERR PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. -- With the smell of gunpowder in the air and the sound of "Taps" ringing in everyone's ears, Marines fold the flag slow and meaningfully. A family watches as they wipe tears from their eyes and prepare to bid their final farewells to their loved one.

After the chaplin gives the eulogy, Cpl. Shaun Oates, barracks manager/police sergeant, Headquarters Company, gives the order for the rifle salute.

Commanding seven Marines to fire three volleys is a traditional practice at military funerals, which originated in the old custom of halting fighting to remove the dead from the battlefield. Once each army had cleared its dead, it would fire three volleys to indicate the dead had been cared for and they were ready to resume the fight.

"It makes me proud to be a Marine," Oates said.  "[The family] wanted us to do this for [the deceased]."

Oates said he volunteers for funeral details to show his pride for the Marine Corps and to show the families what their Marines were a part of. It gives the families a sense of belonging.

When the rifle salute is completed, "Taps" is played.  "Taps" was originally created to replace the French call for "Lights Out" and was first used in 1862 during a soldier's burial.

During a battle of the Peninsular Campaign, it was unsafe to fire the customary three volleys over the grave, and it was decided the sounding of "Taps" would be the most appropriate ceremony that could be substituted. The new custom was adopted throughout the Army of the Potomac and eventually confirmed by orders.

At the ending of "Taps" the flag is folded and given to the next of kin.  The flag is folded 13 times with each fold holding its own significance, according to the Web sit, ushistory.org.

The first fold of the flag is a symbol of life. The second is a symbol of a belief in eternal life. The third is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing our ranks who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of our country. The fourth fold represents our weaker nature. The fifth fold is a tribute to our country. The sixth is for where our hearts lie. The seventh is a tribute to our armed forces. 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. The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood, and mothers for the sacrifices they have made in taking care of our service members. The tenth is a tribute to the father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country. The eleventh fold represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies in the Hebrews' eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The twelfth fold represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in Christians' eyes, God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit. The thirteenth fold, or when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost reminding us of our nation's motto, "In God We Trust."

After the flag is completely folded, three well-shined rounds are placed inside the flag to represent the three volleys fired. The flag is then presented to the next of kin in honor of the deceased.

"The families appreciate it a lot, they like seeing the performance of a military funeral," said Cpl. Marlon Harrison, travel clerk, Depot finance office.

Harrison, who is one of the Marines who fold the flag, said he volunteers for funeral detail to honor and bury a fallen or retired Marine.

But no matter what job they perform at these sacred ceremonies of military tradition, they are all working toward a common goal. Each Marine is dedicated to let each family know just how special their loved one's service was.


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