Veterans' families are given keepsakes created from used flags.

Veterans' families are given keepsakes created from used flags.

The 21-gun salute is one of the military traditions that draw the most attention at a veteran's graveside service.

A few audience members tremble when the three volleys of gunfire are fired.

What occurs after those rounds are fired is sometimes overlooked. The expended shell casings are gathered and given to the family as a final reminder of their veteran's service.

Vincent Bugg argues that the sign could have been more effectively communicated. Bugg decided there had to be a more appropriate manner to offer the shells to families when he became sergeant-at-arms at George Nelson American Legion Post 662 in Sergeant Bluff and was in charge of planning veteran funerals.

It didn't seem right to carry them in cupped hands and hand them over to the family.

"Dropping a whole handful of shells into their palms seemed odd," Bugg told the Sioux City Journal.

He considered plastic bags, but they weren't a good fit either.

Then he remembered the little American flags that were retired yearly after marking veterans' graves for the preceding 12 months. These flags could be used for something else instead of being burnt along with other retired flags.

"I had all these good-looking flags, and it seemed a waste to throw them away," Bugg explained.

Bugg has been manufacturing the bags for the Sergeant Bluff Legion post and others who have requested them for more than two years. He constructed bags for two Woodbury County men who died at Pearl Harbor on board the battleship USS Oklahoma and whose remains were recently identified and sent home for burial.

In the future, Bug hopes younger veterans will join the American Legion or other service organizations so that the fire squad can perform military rites at their funerals. In addition to sharing his shell bag concept with other posters, he suggested how to give the funeral of a veteran a little more dignity.