Properly folding the American Flag has a special meaning

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By Vicki Brown

Folding the American Flag meticulously into a neat triangle is a skill that most U.S. military honor guards must practice repeatedly in order to perfect.

Traditional flag etiquette states that the American Flag should be folded in half lengthwise twice. Then, folded from the end opposite the blue field to make a triangle-shaped fold. This process is continued until the other end is reached, and a small portion tucked inside.

Only the blue starred area shows on the outside.

From beginning to end, this process takes 13 folds to produce the triangle.

According to U.S. military history, the American Flag isn’t folded 13 times because each of the folds has a special symbolic meaning. Folding the flag in such a way distinguishes it from any ordinary object such as a towel or bedsheet.

The result is also an easy-to-handle shape. This 13-fold procedure was a common practice long before anyone could apply “meaning” to each of the steps.

The elaborate flag folding ceremony was devised years later for special occasions such as Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and funerals of soldiers. It became an expectation due to its significance to the people affiliated with those occasions.

According to the National Flag Foundation, each fold in the American Flag is now symbolic.

The first fold of the flag represents life. 

The second fold is a symbol of the belief in eternal life. 

The third fold is made to honor and remember veterans.

The fourth fold represents American citizens trusting in God.

The fifth fold is a tribute to the United States as a whole.

The sixth fold is a symbol of the “Pledge of 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 the Armed Forces that protect this country against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

The eighth fold is a tribute to those who died for our freedom, the appreciation for those who walked through the valley of the shadow of death, and our hope in seeing the light.

The ninth fold is in honor of mothers.

The tenth fold is a tribute to fathers, who have given sons and daughters for the defense of their country.

The eleventh fold represents the lower portion of the Biblical seal of King David, King Solomon, and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The twelfth fold is an emblem of eternity and symbolizes God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit. 

The thirteenth, and final fold, has the stars prominently displayed to remind us of this nation’s motto; “In God We Trust.”

After the flag is completely folded and tucked into a triangle, the flag is reminiscent of the tricorn hats worn by soldiers who served under General George Washington, the sailors and marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones, and the airmen and officers of the United States Air Force.

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