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