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Arlington Cemetery doesn't provide American flag for military funeral

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One of the most iconic - and heartbreaking - images from a military funeral comes when a grieving widow is presented with a folded American flag as a symbol of their loved one's service.

Photo: Flickr/Beverly & Pack

Imagine the confusion and fury that Edyth Grolton felt when she was told she had to provide her own flag at her husband's burial.

Jim Grolton served the United States for 20 years as a hospital corpsman in the Navy. He moved his family from one base to another before retiring as a Master Chief. He passed away this past January at the age of 83.

However, when she was making plans to have Jim's ashes buried at Arlington National Cemetery, she was thrown for a loop when she found out she had to bring her own flag to be presented at the funeral.

"What (they're) saying is the widow or next of kin obtains a flag, brings it with them, hands it to someone there, they fold it up during the ceremony and give it back to them," Grolton said. "We kind of looked at this as the ultimate slap."

In fact, though, that stipulation is in the standard instructions sent to the family of every veteran to be buried in Arlington. Cemetery administrator Jack Lechner says that the funeral home handling the veteran's remains gets a flag for free from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

However, since Grolton donated her husband's body to science, there was no funeral home, forcing her to arrange to get her own flag through the V.A. and pick it up through a local post office.

"We do our best here to make sure that the flag that's presented to every family has meaning and is important to them," Lechner said.

After ABC7's interview with the director of the cemetery, Arlington officials offered to help Edyth in obtaining a burial flag. But she said it had lost all meaning for her family and that it no longer symbolized the thanks of a grateful nation.

Instead, the family has decided to cancel the funeral at Arlington Cenetery and scatter Jim's ashes at sea.

"I feel betrayed," Edyth said.

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