If you were a Boy Scout or served in the U.S. Armed Forces, you learned how to fold an American flag. Yet, while millions of Americans proudly display the flag on their property, many of them don’t know the procedure, which in reality is a ceremony. With some assistance from The American Legion, let’s start with the meaning behind the ceremony of folding “Old Glory.”
The flag-folding ceremony, itself, represents the Judeo-Christian principles on which The United States of America was founded. The blue area, or canton, that contains the stars representing the states, also represents the states of our veterans who served in uniform and denotes honor. The canton field of stars should always be dressed from left to right, and is inverted only when draped as a pall on the casket of a veteran who has served honorably in uniform.
For those serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, at the ceremony of “retreat” (in this case meaning the time of day when the flag is lowered), it is folded in a triangle and kept under watch overnight as a tribute to our nation’s honored dead. The following morning at reveille, the flag is brought out and run up the flag pole as a symbol of our belief in the resurrection of the body.
How to perform the flag-folding ceremony
- Straighten out the flag to full length and fold lengthwise once.
- Fold it lengthwise a second time to meet the open edge, making sure that the union of stars on the blue field remains outward in full view.
- A triangular fold is then started by bringing the striped corner of the folded edge to the open edge.
- The outer point is then turned inward, parallel with the open edge, to form a second triangle.
- This diagonal folding is repeated toward the blue union until the end is reached, with only the blue field of stars showing in the final triangle.
There are 12 folds in all, with each fold having its own special meaning. For example, the first fold is symbolic of life. The third fold represents honor and the remembrance of veterans, both living and deceased. The fifth fold is a tribute to our country. The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood. For specific details on all 12 folds, click here.
Once the flag has been completely folded and tucked-in, it is to remind us of the three cornered hats the soldiers wore who served under Gen. George Washington, and the sailors and Marines who served under Capt. John Paul Jones, as well as all of those who followed their comrades in the U.S. Armed Forces, preserving for us the rights, privileges and freedoms we enjoy today. Moreover, the stars which appear upon completion are to remind us of our national motto, “In God We Trust.”