Surviving the Folded Flag by Deborah Tainsh

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Deborah H. Tainsh has compiled a book of stories by parents who have lost their children to war. What a brave undertaking for a woman who herself, has experienced one of the most crushing grief's of life.
These true stories show how horrendous it is to lose a child. But losing a child to war brings its own set of questions.
The book's dedication says a lot: 
This book is dedicated to America's heroes
those who serve,
those who have served,
those who have sacrificed all,
and the families who love and support them.
There is much to be learned from this book. In the foreword by Command Chaplain John C. Powell, 335th Signal Command, he writes, "These are the stories of parents who have lost a son or daughter to war, relating the difficulties of their journey since the day they learned that they had become a part of the fraternity no one wishes to join. These are stories of tragedy, full of heart-wrenching pathos, dealing with the pain of horrific and irrevocable loss. 
These are also stories of triumph, and in each families story we find the reason for America's strength and once again discover the sublime truth that freedom is only maintained by those who are willing to fight for and defend it."
The book is enlightening in many ways. For those of us who haven't experienced such a loss, we learn of the many aspects of such a death. For instance, the author's son, Army Sergeant Patrick Shannon Tainsh, was killed during the first year of the war in Iraq. Deborah and David Tainsh's son's body was brought to Atlanta by commercial airliner from Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Dover is where autopsies and final dress are handled.
Patrick's parents did not have the strength to drive the 100 miles to Atlanta, and then follow the hearse back home. So they waited for the call from their local funeral home, confirming that their son's body had arrived. They then drove to the funeral home, to meet with the soldier who had accompanied Patrick Tainsh back home.
Today things are different, thanks to the efforts of Gold Star mom and dad Stacey and John Holley, of San Diego, California. After the death of their son, Matthew, in Iraq, they fought for legislation that was signed in October 2006 by President George W. Bush. By spring, families began receiving the option to have their loved ones returned by private jet to the airport nearest their home.
Families can now choose to wait with an honor guard on the tarmac as the plane lands with the military escort and flag-draped casket. With quiet stillness and salutes, our fallen heroes are returned home with the honor and dignity they deserve.
This is just one aspect of the necessary arrangements. Then there is the funeral to be considered. A Casualty Assistance Officer (CAO) helps plan the funeral. There are forms to be signed, and numerous details to be attended to.
After the funeral, comes the struggle to go on living. Kim Smith speaks on the loss of her son, Army Private Robert Lewis Franz. "The loss of my child has been the lowest point in my life. However, I consistently remind myself I can either let this tragedy eat me up or I can do my best to live a worthwhile life in honor of Rob. I cannot change life's course, but he wouldn't want me to spend the rest of my life not living. And I know my son's spirit is helping to press me forward."
There is a section in the back of the book that contains advice from Gold Star parents. Such as:
-      Grieve at your own pace and in your own way
-      Accept help
-      Comfort your other children
-      Give people permission to talk about your child
-      See if a support group is right for you
I believe this book should be required reading for every president, politician, policy-maker, and all United States citizens, so that they will truly understand the full, lingering consequences of war.
Surviving the Folded Flag contains 27 stories of our fallen heroes. Each one is a permanent testament to the power of love. The love of family and country is what has held America together through the years. This beautifully and courageously written book shows us that love never dies. It lives on in the memories of those who were blessed to personally know these brave soldiers, and to forever remember them.
And in spite of the sorrow contained within its pages, the book is actually about hope, and how Gold Star parents are passing that hope on to others who will need it. 
An outstanding piece of work.

Reviewed by: Charlene Rubush (2010)

Author's Synopsis

Author of Heart of a Hawk and Gold Star mom Deborah Tainsh has gathered essays from more than twenty-five parents who received the dreaded news that their child had died in military service. These invaluable stories show how today's military families are surviving the folded flag and give a glimpse into the lives of fallen service members as Gold Star parents tell the stories and celebrate the lives of their fallen heroes.
Surviving also includes advice for other Gold Star families, their friends, and family members. 
Bonus essays from a casualty assistance officer and a former soldier give deeper insight into how wartime death affects comrades left behind.