Do You Know How to Properly Fold an American Flag and What it Symbolizes? - ITS Tactical
 

Do You Know How to Properly Fold an American Flag and What it Symbolizes?

By Bryan Black

Folding an American Flag

The American Flag is a symbol of democracy that many men and women have sacrificed their very lives defending.

While on first appearance to some, the American flag seems like nothing more than a piece of colored cloth. However, it’s what it represents that warrants our respect. One of the ways we can show respect is to take a few minutes and learn how to properly fold the flag. It’s a relatively easy process, but one that should be practiced.

Folding the National Ensign

An American flag is also know as our National Ensign when used at sea as our country’s maritime flag.

These steps below will require a minimum of two people to keep the flag taut while folding. The person holding the canton (or union) side of the flag will remain stationary, while the person holding the opposite side will move towards them while triangle folding.

Folding an American Flag

The first step in folding the American flag is to fold the lower striped section over the blue field. You’ll want the open edge facing to your right if you’re the person on the fly side, (the edge furthest away from the flagpole) doing the triangle folding.

Folding an American Flag

Now fold the folded edge over to meet the open edge.

Folding an American Flag

Start the triangular folding by bringing the striped corner of the folded edge over to the open edge.

Folding an American Flag

Fold the outer point inward, parallel with the open edge to form a second triangle.

Folding an American Flag

Continue repeating these triangle folds until nearly the entire length of the flag is folded into a triangle. Ensure you’re keeping each triangle taut while folding.

Folding an American Flag

Tuck the remaining flag margin into the pocket formed by the folds. Folding the margin slightly to match the profile of the triangle will help keep the folding streamlined.

Folding an American Flag

Folding an American Flag

Folded Flag History

In the U.S. Armed Forces, at the ceremony of retreat, the flag is lowered, folded into a triangle and kept under watch throughout the night as a tribute to our nation’s honored dead. The next morning it’s brought out and at the ceremony of reveille, run aloft as a symbol of our belief in the resurrection of the body.

Symbols for the Folds of the Flag

  1. The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.
  2. The second fold is a symbol of our belief in eternal life.
  3. The third fold is made in honor and remembrance 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 throughout the world.
  4. The fourth fold represents our weaker nature; as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace, as well as in times of war, for His divine guidance.
  5. The fifth fold is a tribute 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.”
  6. 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.
  7. 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, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our republic.
  8. 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.
  9. The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood, for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great have been molded.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.

When the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, “In God We Trust.”

Folding an American Flag

After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it has the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under Gen. George Washington and the sailors and Marines who served under Capt. John Paul Jones. They were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the U.S. Armed Forces, preserving for us the rights, privileges and freedoms we enjoy today.

The origin of this Flag Folding history and symbols is unknown, however some sources attribute it to the Gold Star Mothers of America while others to an Air Force chaplain stationed at the United States Air Force Academy. Others consider it to be an urban legend. It’s provided as a patriotic service to all and found here on the American Legion website.

For more information on the United States Flag Code and Properly Retiring a Flag, check out the ITS articles below.

Please remember to only buy American flags made in America!

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Discussion

54 comments
Carlos DeBlanco
Carlos DeBlanco

Great article as usual. By the way, is that t-shirt ever going to be available again?

Benjamin Smith
Benjamin Smith

Sorry I didn't respond earlier.. I've been busy WORKING. No welfare here, bud

Sean Yunt
Sean Yunt

I taught many cub scouts how to fold a flag in my time as a den leader.

Zabrewolf
Zabrewolf

WTF is up w/ the flame war?


Bryan thank you for the reminder on respect for OUR flag. I get that you Navy guys live this stuff but us ground pounders appreciate it too.

bullitt4686
bullitt4686

...and thank you Bryan for sharing this.  Makes me want to break out my Bluejacket's Manual!

bullitt4686
bullitt4686

I agree.  Don't feed the trolls.  Anyone can say anything when typing to cyber space.  The true patriots wouldn't let anyone disrespect the flag in person.  I don't really care what people say about it on forums and the like, I just know what I would do if someone was disrespecting the flag in my face.  No threats, no examples, just another point of view.  I fought for that flag.  If you know what shots fired in anger sound like, you have an innate need to protect that 'piece of cloth.'  *salute*

Andrew Blair
Andrew Blair

Shut up Ben you socialist commie POS. I want actual freedom from government force you flag worshipping brainwashed zombie welfare whore. I don’t want to be extorted and be a part of your cult worshipping religion, I want things done voluntarily in the market without threats of violence. I want people to know they are free beautiful human beings that can move past the cancer of statism. You following me? Judging by the regurgitated diarrhea pulsing out of your mouth I am going to bet this isn’t the first time you’ve said something that stupid and delusional to someone who doesn’t agree with your warped view of reality. Go die.

Benjamin Smith
Benjamin Smith

You don't seem to care for it, why do you live here? Cuba or Venezuela would be a better fit for you.

Andrew Blair
Andrew Blair

Statists insults = toddler mentality. Muh country! I love muh masters and muh holy cloth

Nick Goettl
Nick Goettl

You should burn your mother and see how she shines..

Nick Goettl
Nick Goettl

You should throw your mother in the trash..

Alex Burris
Alex Burris

IMO every us citizen should know how to fold our counties flag... And like the few who have commented here, I learned in scouts \U0001f44d

Edward Schroeder
Edward Schroeder

Whatever Mc Lovin. I was wondering where your stank ass was hiding. Go join your brethren in Syria.

Steve Froehlich
Steve Froehlich

If done correctly when folding you should have one star on top and 3 on the bottom (on one side), for the 13 colonies...The more you know.

Christopher Starling
Christopher Starling

Thanks for the reply Bryan, I appreciate the clarification. Not intent on being a jerk just to many folks use them interchangeably. Keep up the awesome work

Jared Drury
Jared Drury

or, you could just go fuck your self. Maybe you'd like to hear that I wiped my ass with it first. patriotism is a disease.

Kevin Robinson
Kevin Robinson

How about I shit kick your teeth into the back of your throat for the hell of it?

Kevin Robinson
Kevin Robinson

Yes, and I always was told it was to mimic a tricorn hat from the 1700s

Donald Craddock Jr.
Donald Craddock Jr.

3 yrs Air Force ROTC Color guard in high school, bet your damn ass I still know how to fold the colors.

ITS Tactical
ITS Tactical

Sounds like a great course, glad you had the opportunity to do that. ~ Bryan

Eric Graves
Eric Graves

We do it that way, but the point of the course I took was education of the flag code.

ITS Tactical
ITS Tactical

I'd argue that we need some consistency in Scouts LOL! With my son's Troop, we've always taught this method, but I absolutely see the purpose in not having a die hard way for folding. It's like retiring a flag. There's no wrong way as long as it's done with respect. ~ Bryan

Eric Graves
Eric Graves

It's what we are used to. Ironically, I learned that it doesn't have to be folded this way in a course for Scout leaders.

ITS Tactical
ITS Tactical

Very true Eric, I should probably add that this is based on the method the US Military uses. I referenced my good ol' Bluejacket's Manual on this one, just to be sure. ~ Bryan

ITS Tactical
ITS Tactical

The article references the American Flag being a "symbol" of democracy, not referring to the United States as a democracy. I completely agree that the US is a republic. Hope that helps to clarify ~ Bryan

Jared Drury
Jared Drury

I threw my old flag in the trash, right where it belongs.

Eric Graves
Eric Graves

According to the flag code there is no proper way to fold it.

Tony McNeil
Tony McNeil

Great article, but like Christoper stated we're a Republic.

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