The proper presentation of the casket flag and presenting additional National flags is an issue that often causes a substantial amount of discussion and argument during the planning process of a police funeral.
The presentation of an additional National flag to someone chosen by the family is a well-established practice and should be recognized as a legitimate part of the honors ceremony if the surviving family requests it. As all funeral coordinators know, what the surviving family wants is paramount. If the surviving family wants a specific person or persons to receive an additional National flag, then they will.
There is only one casket flag, the National flag. This is the flag that is folded and presented to the surviving family, usually the surviving spouse. Any additional National flags presented shall be pre-folded. They must be presented and received with dignity and respect. There is no requirement that they be presented by the agency executive, chief or sheriff. They may be presented by someone else if the presentation would be more meaningful to the recipient. If the surviving spouse agrees that the presentation of an additional flag by the deceased officer’s patrol partner to the deceased officer’s young son, whom the partner knows well, would have a special meaning, then it should be done.
There have been times when members of a funeral planning team adamantly argued that no one except a family member should receive an additional National flag. There is no restriction as to who can receive an additional flag. It is done at the surviving family’s request. There is no limit as to how many flags can be presented. However, the requests must be reasonable.
At one funeral planning meeting the deceased officer’s parents had made a request that an additional flag be presented to their son’s fiancee. A planning team member argued the fact that the officer had not officially asked the woman to marry him, even though his parents had talked to him about it and it was common knowledge that he was going to officially ask her soon, she should not receive a flag.
At another funeral, the family wanted three flags given to relatives that were members of law enforcement agencies, one the same agency as the deceased, the other two in other local agencies. On another occasion, a wife asked that each of her two sons get a pre-folded flag. All of these people deserved to get a pre-folded flag because it is what the surviving family asked for. There should be no judgmental discussion about the worthiness of an individual or their official relationship to the deceased. If the family asks for additional flags, just do it.
Can a request be denied? Although I have never experienced a situation where I would deny someone an additional flag, I am sure there could be a situation where it might be inappropriate and therefore withheld. The presentation of a National flag to someone is more than fulfilling a surviving family’s request. It is a profound symbolic gesture. It is an honor. It needs to be presented and received with dignity and respect. It represents the patriotism and dedication and self sacrifice of the deceased officer and of every officer attending the funeral. In my opinion, if I had verified reasonable cause to believe that the intended recipient would not receive the flag in the manner that it was intended, with dignity and respect, then I would deny the request for it to be presented.
At many line-of-duty funeral honors ceremonies, other flags are presented to the family. These are usually a state flag and possibly a military flag or organizational flag. These flags should be presented by the appropriate entity representative after the casket flag and any other pre-folded National flags have been presented. They should be appropriately pre-folded.
The surviving family and all National flag recipients should either receive an appropriate display box for the flag or be informed of how and where to acquire one. These flags are presented as a memorial to the deceased and hopefully will be displayed. Agency funeral coordinators should ensure the family is able to acquire the display or shadow boxes and try to ensure they are appropriately displayed.
If a surviving family is uncertain what they will do with the casket flag after it is presented and do not intend to immediately display it, the agency executive may request the flag so that it can be appropriately displayed at the agency until the family is ready for its return.