Saturday, January 19, 2013

13 Folds of the flag

Friendships are what makes the world go round and I am a VERY blessed girl.   

I met Kylynn in May at Martini’s & Makeovers, a Got Your Back Network fundraiser honoring surviving spouses.  She was quiet and calm with a light about her; when Salina introduced us I felt something about her.  As I heard her story and got to know her more I felt a connection with her, there were things I understood and her light made sense. 

I have talked to her about Nathan on several occasions - her love and husband.  I have heard many things about him but in her words I wanted to share:

Nathan is the best thing that ever happened to me. We attended the same high school, and had many mutual friends, but never actually met until he returned from boot camp. We were instantly attached at the hip. He was handsome, smart, and just plain goofy. He was a big kid at heart and that is one thing I miss the most about him. He could always make me laugh, and had a good time doing it! His fellow Marines called him "smiley" because he always had a huge grin on his face, even if they were stacking sandbags for no apparent reason in the middle of the dessert. He loved running, animated movies, mountain biking, video games, playing guitar, Chinese food, Yoo Hoo chocolate milk, anything to do with Marvel super heroes, and working at Toys R Us during Christmas. He had a soft spot for helping others, especially kids. We dated for three years before we finally tied the knot, a week before he left for deployment. 

Every day I am reminded of some silly little thing that I miss about him. He taught me so much about myself, about love, and about life in general. Through both his life and death he has shaped me into the person I am today, and for that I am grateful.
From Marine Cpl Nathan Maxwell obituary

He was united in marriage on March 27, 2009, in Jefferson City, to Kylynn Michelle Hill who survives.

In 2005 Nathan enlisted with the
United States Marine Corps Reserves. He recently returned from Iraq in February with the rank of Corporal.

Nathan was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Nathan enjoyed working out, running, computer games, movies, fishing, spending time at the lake, golfing, listening and playing music, comic books, and most especially spending time with his family. Nathan was a happy and loving child and husband, and grew into a deeply compassionate young man. Nathan was a man who loved to serve for others. He was loved greatly and words cannot express how much he will be missed.

Kylynn didn't have the flag that was atop Nathan's casket.  The reason was not because it was never presented rather a decision in a moment that undoubtedly was caused by her own strength. She was fortunate enough to give Nathan a funeral with full military honors, and although the ball was dropped many times the one thing they did right was removing the flag from the casket, folding it and presenting it to her. His mother was handed an extra flag, but his father (they were divorced when Nathan was 1) did not receive one. After receiving her flag, Kylynn immediately walked to his father and handed it to him. It was probably one of the hardest decisions she had made, especially because his father proceeded (flag in hand) to blame he for Nathan's death. While Nathan’s father may never admit it, Kylynn knows in her heart that her action meant a lot and that Nathan would have been proud of her decision.  This gesture is what brought us all to the American Legion in Montebello that night. 

On December 9 I attended a very special ceremony; one that I have never witnessed before but will forever stay with me.  Kylynn finally received a folded flag in honor of her husband Cpl Nathan Maxwell.  The night was a surprise to her, she wasn’t told who would be there or why she was going.  When she showed up, looking radiant, with a photo of her husband Nathan framed in her arms she was greeting by a small group of friends and the American Legion.

As Gold Star Wife President Salina Jimenez began reading the significance of the 13 folds of the flag as it was folded, her voice cracked but she kept going... her strength and her husband’s will with her all the way.  I quietly watched the flag being folded, saluted and handed to a marine in his dress blues who then handed the flag to Kylynn, “On behalf of a grateful nation.”  As I took pictures, my eyes filled with tears I knew that moment was something that I will never forget.  Marine Cpl Nathan Maxwell is a man that I never met yet a man that I know from his wife, I know from his photo and a man that I have great admiration for.    

After the ceremony several of us went to dinner; we laughed, we cried and we laughed some more.  There are moments in life that you look in on, moments that you see yourself experiencing and know that it will never be better than this.  I looked at the people at the table and realized that I have wonderful people in my life and I hope to provide them the friendship that they have so willingly given to me. 

There have been almost 7000 service members killed in combat during the last 11 years our country has been at war and the number of suicides is rapidly increasing. 
In all, 349 service members in all branches of the US Military committed suicide in 2012, up 15 percent from 301 suicides in the military in 2011, AP reported, citing a Pentagon source. The number of US Military suicides in 2012 exceeded the total combat fatalities in Afghanistan in 2012, which the AP calculated at 295 deaths.  

Please don’t forget the families missing their hero today and every day.

As the flag is folded, for each fold recite the following:

Fold 1: The 13 stripes represent the original 13 states: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island

Fold 2: The 50 stars represent our 50 United States of America

Fold 3: "I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death", Patrick Henry

Fold 4: "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman", Thomas Paine

Fold 5: "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. They are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. Among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", Declaration of Independence

Fold 6: "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America", United States Constitution

Fold 7: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances", First Amendment

Fold 8: "The basis of our political system is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government", George Washington

Fold 9: "My God! How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!" Thomas Jefferson

Fold 10: "Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal", Abraham Lincoln

Fold 11: "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door", Emma Lazarus, inscription on the Statue of Liberty

Fold 12: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country", John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Fold 13: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character", Martin Luther King, Jr.

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