FlagsThe nation celebrates Flag Day on June 14, but every day is Flag Day at VA.

“VA is to flags as veterans are to the military.  You can’t have one without the other,” said then-VA Deputy Assistant Secretary Gary Krump.

In 2001, Krump was chief of the Office of Acquisition and Materiel Management which oversees the purchase, manufacture and distribution of more U.S. flags than anyone. Since 1962, when VA began providing burial flags to families of deceased veterans in recognition of honorable service to the nation, the department has distributed at least 11.5 million flags, and that is estimated from the annual average of about 225,000 flags from 1962 to 2001.

No other organization comes close to distributing that many flags.  The Architect of the Capitol, which provides an average of 100,000 per year to Congressional offices to honor constituent requests, comes closest.

Members of Congress must pay for the flags they request and seek reimbursement from constituents if they so choose. VA burial flags are gifts from a grateful nation.

“But the flags provided by Congress have no real specifications,” said Domenico  Ventura, the VA contracting officer in 2002 overseeing the  five vendors that manufacture the burial flags for the Department. “Them flags flown over the Capitol are smaller, and are cotton or polyester/nylon.  They have even purchased from our vendors some of the flags we reject because they don’t meet stringent VA specifications.”

A VA burial flag is a guaranteed entitlement. The department must have a flag for every memorial service or funeral for an eligible veteran.

“That is no small feat, given the rising number of flags that VA puts out every year,” Krump said. With more than 12 million of the nation’s 25.5 million veterans over the age of 60, the death rate is expected to remain above 500,000 a year beyond 2015. By then, another 8 million will be between 60 and 75.

The flags are presented during graveside ceremonies and mailed to veterans’ survivors all over the world. Many families donate the flags to VA national cemeteries and medical centers, which display them for special observances, often along the Avenues of Flags at the entrances to many VA facilities.

Flags2It’s because they are guaranteed entitlements often displayed in public places that VA burial flags must meet high standards. The standards are set by the U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry. Page after page of specifications spell out the thousands of details required to make a VA flag.

By law, each flag must be completely manufactured in the United States from raw domestic materials. Each flag must measure exactly five feet by nine feet, six inches. It must be made from domestic cotton bunting, with precisely-sized white and Old Glory red stripes and a blue star field. The stars are embroidered to make them more durable and attractive. The entire flag is constructed with a specified number of stitches and yarns per square inch.

VA burial flags must pass other stringent tests by qualified inspectors, including size and weight, material content, yarn ply, weave, colorfastness, flag design, colors, grommets, breaking strength and stitching. Half the burial flags are made by the National Institute for the Severely Handicapped. Small businesses make the rest.

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Published on Jun. 14, 2014

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  1. James Svoboda June 14, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    You are to use common sense when you display the flag. Putting a flag connected to a dowel stick of 18 inches in the ground is not good common sense. The wind can blow them over, they can be trampled, plus they are not all weather. If bad weather comes who goes and picks them up and how are they then stored?

  2. gkb June 14, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    Nice Flags. Waiting for relocation to USA. Worked in USA from 98-2008. Came for vacation in 2008. Trying to come back to USA since 2010.

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