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Freshly creased flag honors World War II prisoner of war

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — Hidden in the far corner of a relative’s attic sat a trunk — a relic long forgotten and covered with dust.

Inside were letters, pictures and an unfurled burial flag presented by the Army to the family of Ernest Bolt, a prisoner of war who died in captivity during World War II. When Tammy Rivers, his great-niece found the flag in the trunk, she knew it needed to be properly refolded. That’s where the Marine Corps stepped in.

As the sun rose Friday morning aboard New River Air Station, six of Bolt’s family members watched as a detail of Marines from Headquarters Squadron flew the flag above the base before lowering it, tightly folding it and presenting it to the family of six.

“It was so surreal,” said Rivers, 49, of Newport. “The Marines took so much care to get it right. It really is a statement that he matters to them even though he never met him. They were respectful and embraced that they don’t want any man or family left behind.”

The flag — now refolded — will be encased and displayed at her father’s house. For Christmas, all Rivers wanted was to give her father a freshly creased flag, she said. She couldn’t be more appreciative of the Marine Corps for making that happen, thanks to the Corps’ decision to provide such services in some cases.

“I hope he is looking at us and saying thanks for the honor,” Rivers said. “I hope he is proud of us for taking the effort to make this happen. As it went up the flagpole and the bell was ringing, I could barely breathe. I think I held my breath the whole time it went up.”

Windell Bolt, the nephew of Ernest Bolt, came with his wife from Pulaski, Va. to see the flag folded.

“It was truly amazing watching them raise the flag again,” said Windell Bolt, 72. “It was like they brought him back here to be with us even if it was just for a few moments.”

Hopefully, he said, it will mean a lot to his uncle that the Marines took the time to honor him by refolding his flag.

“To me, the refolding of this flag is an awesome statement about our military,” Windell Bolt said. “They’re to be truly commended. This reinforces that the military is a big family regardless of what generation you served. They truly take care of their own and this has been an amazing experience.”

Raising and folding the flag made it a very special and unique day, said Staff Sgt. Kevin Caldwell.

“We still care,” Caldwell said. “As I was folding the flag, I was thinking about my family before me who fought during World War II and Vietnam. It also made me think of all the veterans who have served before me.”

The armed forces, Caldwell said, is a brotherhood and everyone should do whatever they can to remember those who have served. For the four junior Marines also in the detail, Caldwell hopes that this was an enlightening experience, he said.

“It’s an honor for me to refold a World War II flag,” Caldwell said. “It’s a moment where we get to remember the fallen. I just hope it means a lot to the family. (Ernest Bolt) did great things overseas and fought in a war but never came home. I hope this shows the family that we still honor those who sacrifice for our nation.”

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