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Patriotism is a strange virtue. It seems people either go all the way with it, with flags and t-shirts and bumper stickers and extravagant Memorial Day parades, or, for one reason or another, they just sort of leave it alone. I suppose we’re all patriots, unless we actively deny such a label. With the sinking of the United States into the Iraq War in 2003, depending on what circles you run in, patriotism received a powerful surge or it became even more gauche and grotesque.

It’s tough to place the four people highlighted in How to Fold a Flag on the patriotism scale. All of them shared a 15-month tour in Iraq as members of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery of the US Army. At first glance, “Of course they’re patriotic! They’re Iraq War veterans.” Veterans belong to the school of patriotism bedecked with American flags, right? But as the film rolls on and we see the subjects’ various disenchantments with their experience in the military and the life they came home to, it might be appropriate to place them closer to the less-concentrated middle of the spectrum—they’re agnostic patriots, so to speak.

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