Throughout the history of the United States, the flag has been revered due to its representation of those lost in battle. The Stars and Stripes, the flag which inspired the national anthem, has been preserved for 190 years . There are two primary occasions when a military flag would need to be preserved: after a military retirement and after the burial of a veteran. In both cases, the flag is folded in accordance with the Flag Code and presented to the family. Afterwards, the family may be unsure of how to preserve the flag.
First, the flag should not be unfolded for any reason, and it should never touch the ground or floor. To do either of these actions would disrespect not only the veteran for whom it was folded but the ensign itself. The flag should never be flown again, and, in the case of the deceased veteran, it should not be buried with the veteran.
The most common way to preserve the military flag is to display it in a display case, normally made of wood with a glass or plexiglass insert. The case would then be prominently displayed within the home or respectfully stored where no damage can occur. The flag may be temporarily stored in a plastic bag to protect it from dust, spills, or other environmental contagions until a proper case is obtained.
There are a lot of variations of the display case. The most basic case will display the ensign by itself. However, the family may wish to place an engraved metal plate upon the case, indicating the years and branch of military in which the veteran served, or the birth and death year of the loved one.
In the case of a retirement, the flag’s display case may be combined with the military member’s shadow box, which displays the ribbons and medals earned by the veteran while on active duty. It can also list the duty stations and jobs that the veteran held while in military service.
If the flag is given to the family due to a burial, the unfolded flag will be draped upon the casket with the stars laid closest to the person’s head. Military members will fold the flag while Taps is played by either a bugler or from a recording. If the veteran is cremated, there are display cases available that will hold the ashes in its base.
The most important aspects are that the flag is protected from damage and treated respectfully. A case will do the job and can be passed down through the family for generations, forever memorializing the sacrifice the family made.