How our Military folds the American Flag using the same steps and what it means is rooted in history. Thanks to many military sites and the National Flag Foundation, we see how the Flag of the United States of America is treated with respect and difference today.
Why is the flag folded into a triangle?
The blue section of the flag represents honor and during ceremonies and burials, the stars representing the states from which our veterans served. It is dressed from left to right when held but is inverted when draped over a casket of a veteran who has served our country honorable while in uniform.
During a ceremony of retreat, the flag is lowered, folded in a triangle, and kept under watch throughout the night as a tribute to our nation’s honored dead. The next morning it is brought out and, at a ceremony of reveille, flown high as a symbol of belief in the resurrection of the body.
The following morning it is brought out and, at a ceremony of reveille, flown high as a symbol of belief in the resurrection of the body. *** Courtesy of Military.com
The flag is then folded into a triangle and tucked in, giving it the appearance of a three corned hat, which reminds us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington and the sailors and Marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones to aid in preserving our rights, privileges, and freedoms that we enjoy today.
How the ceremony is handled
First, the Honor Guard lifts the flag off the casket.
In silence, the tautly held flag is twice folded in half lengthwise; then (from the end opposite the blue field), a Guard member diagonally folds the end to form a triangle.
From that point on, the Guard continues the crisp folding of the colors in triangular shapes until the blue field of the flag is reached.
At that point, the edge of the blue field is tucked into the open fold, leaving only the white stars on the blue field visible on both sides.
The two lengthwise folds and the eleven triangular folds comprise the thirteen folds commonly associated with the presentation of the flag at a military funeral. *** Steps – courtesy of OurMilitary.com
What do the thirteen folds of the flag represent?
- The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.
- The second fold signifies our belief in eternal life.
- The third fold is made in honor and tribute of the veteran departing our ranks, and who gave a portion of his or her life for the defense of our country to attain peace.
- The fourth fold exemplifies our weaker nature as citizens trusting in God; it is to Him we turn for His divine guidance.
- The fifth fold is an acknowledgment to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, “Our Country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right, but it is still our country, right or wrong.”
- The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
- The seventh fold is a tribute to our armed forces, for it is through the armed forces that we protect our country and our flag against all enemies.
- The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor our mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day.
- The ninth fold is an honor to womanhood, for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty, and devotion that the character of men and women who have made this country great have been molded.
- The 10th fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since he or she was first-born.
- The 11th fold, in the eyes of Hebrew citizens, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
- The 12th fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost.
- The last fold, when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, “In God We Trust.
How should we treat the Flag of the United States of America?
US Flag Code
The United States Flag Code establishes advisory rules for the display and care of the flag of the United States. It is Section 1 of Title 4 of the United States Code (4 U.S.C. § 1 et seq). This etiquette is as applied within U.S. jurisdiction. In other countries and places, local etiquette applies.
Standards of respect
- The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing unless it is the ensign responding to a salute from a ship of a foreign nation. This tradition comes from the 1908 Summer Olympics in London, where countries were asked to dip their flag to King Edward VII: the American team flag bearer, Ralph Rose, refused, teammate Martin Sheridan famously proclaiming that “this flag dips to no earthly king.” This tradition was codified as early as the 1911 U.S. Army drill regulations.
- The flag should never be displayed with the union (the starred blue canton) down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.
- The flag should not be used as “wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery”, or for covering a speaker’s desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in general (exception for coffins). Bunting of blue, white, and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.
- The flag should never be drawn back or bunched up in any way.
- The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.
- The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed, or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or halyard.
- The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, firefighters, police officers, and members of patriotic organizations.
- When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms. To store the flag it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously.
- The flag should be cleaned and mended when necessary.
- The flag should never have placed on it, or attached to it, any mark, insignia, letter, word, number, figure, or drawing of any kind.
- The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
- The flag should never be stepped on.
- The flag should not be draped over the hood, top, sides, or back of a vehicle, railroad train, or boat.
Displaying the flag outdoors
- The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement.
- The custom is to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on flagstaffs in the open, but it may be displayed at night, but only if illuminated to produce a patriotic effect.
- When the flag is displayed from a staff projecting from a window, balcony, or a building, the union should be at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff.
- When the flag is displayed over a street, it should be hung vertically, with the union to the north or east. If the street runs north-south, the stars should face east. For streets running east-west, the stars should face north. If the flag is suspended over a sidewalk, the flag’s union should be farthest from the building and the stars facing away from it.
- When flown with flags of states, communities, or societies on separate flag poles which are of the same height and in a straight line, the flag of the United States is always placed in the position of honor—to its own right. The other flags may be the same size but none may be larger.
- No other flag should be placed above it. The flag of the United States is always the first flag raised and the last to be lowered.
- When flown with the national banner of other countries, each flag must be displayed from a separate pole of the same height. Each flag should be the same size. They should be raised and lowered simultaneously. The flag of one nation may not be displayed above that of another nation in time of peace.
- The flag should be raised briskly and lowered slowly and ceremoniously.
- Ordinarily, it should be displayed only between sunrise and sunset, although the Flag Code permits night time display “when a patriotic effect is desired.” Similarly, the flag should be displayed only when the weather is fair, except when an all-weather flag is displayed. (By presidential proclamation and law, the flag is displayed continuously at certain honored locations like the United States Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington and Lexington Green.)
- It should be illuminated if displayed at night.
- The flag of the United States of America is saluted as it is hoisted and lowered. The salute is held until the flag is unsnapped from the halyard or through the last note of music, whichever is the longest.
Displaying the flag indoors
The canton (Blue section with stars) is always in the upper left corner.
- When on display, the flag is accorded the place of honor, always positioned to its own right. Place it to the right of the speaker or staging area or sanctuary. Other flags should be to the left.
- The flag of the United States of America should be at the center and at the highest point of the group when a number of flags of states, localities, or societies are grouped for display.
- When one flag is used with the flag of the United States of America and the staffs are crossed, the flag of the United States is placed on its own right with its staff in front of the other flag.
- When displaying the flag against a wall, vertically or horizontally, the flag’s union (stars) should be at the top, to the flag’s own right, and to the observer’s left.
How to properly dispose of an American Flag
- When the flag is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem, it should be destroyed in a dignified and ceremonious fashion, preferably by burning.
- When a flag is so tattered that it can no longer serve as a symbol of the United States, it should be destroyed in a dignified manner, preferably by burning. The American Legion, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of the USA, and other organizations regularly conduct dignified flag-burning ceremonies, often on Flag Day, June 14.