Short Victory For Snot-Nosed Secularist
Yesterday I got a response, and I just have to say ... YIPPEE!
Thank you for contacting my office regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs policy on the 13-fold recital ceremony. I appreciate the opportunity to update you on this situation: good sense and common cultural values have prevailed.
On October 25, 2007, an article in the Press Enterprise brought to my attention that a memo from the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) banned the recitation of a common flag-folding ceremony sometimes used by cemetery employees and volunteers at 125 national cemeteries. The change in policy was prompted by one complaint which originated at Riverside National Cemetery.
Freedom of speech and religion are American freedoms that I strongly support, and I believe that the rights granted to all citizens through the First Amendment are instrumental to democracy. Therefore, on October 29, 2007, I sent a letter to the Acting Secretary of Veterans' Affairs, along with 127 of my colleagues expressing our frustration with the policy of disallowing employees and volunteers from providing the 13-fold recital to families if they request the ceremony.
In addition, I introduced H.Res. 783, along with Rep. Steven LaTourette, which expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration employees, volunteers, and veterans' service organizations that perform funeral honors and memorial honor details should be permitted to recite the 13 steps to fold an American flag (known as the "13-fold recital") at any national cemetery if requested by the family of the deceased.
You may be happy to know that the Department of Veterans Affairs instituted a different policy on November 1, 2007, which stated that NCA employees, including VA-sponsored Volunteer Honor Guards, can read the "13-fold recital" if requested by the deceased's survivors. In addition, they will not be selective in determining which recitations on the meaning of the thirteen folds will be read.
However, the VA will not accept for reading any texts that would have an adverse impact on the dignity and solemnity of a cemetery honoring those who served the Nation. Among the texts that would not be read would be those that are obscene, racist, are "fighting words," or are coarse, abusive, or politically partisan.
While our system of government can sometimes be slow and unwieldy, in this case strong reaction by the people and quick action by interested Representatives yielded a speedy "about face" by the Department of Veterans' Affairs.
So today, somewhere in America, volunteer vets are once again folding the flag that had draped the coffin of a vet who has passed on, reciting the pledge, honoring his service, respecting his family ... and letting secularists know that we Americans will stand strong in support of our freedoms.
p.s.: Flopping Aces has the text of the 13-fold recital here.
p.p.s.: Please see the site from which the photo came; it honors a fallen hero you should remember, Johnny Michael Spann.