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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  • Christopher Starling

    Nice article. Reminds me of flag duty in high school. By the way we are a republic not a democracy.

    • Hi Christopher, just to clarify, 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. Thanks for your comment.

    • iphonetechtips

      bryanpblack a symbol of the indoctrination of modern society by the controllers to remove history of our original form of government which held individual liberty above public safety. Now it’s ass backwards & everyone has been brainwashed into begging for a nanny state & tyranny of the majority aka democracy.

      Democratic process is fine in a nation of common laws based where all persons are allowed the basic rights of life, liberty & property, but when those laws are eroded by corrupt men into a system of rules for revenue generation & favoring one class of people over another democracy is an absolute disease.

      And telling someone to move outside of an imaginary boundary because they feel others should be held to a higher moral standard by respecting others by leaving them alone is disgusting.

    • radioreject

      bryanpblack Bryan, I’m glad you clarified regarding democracy vs republic.  Democracy, as Benjamin Franklin put it, is two wolves and a sheep sitting down wondering what’s for dinner.  I personally wasn’t able to serve in the military due to medical reasons.  I tried… cleared MEPS (with a lie)  but decided lying was dishonorable so I now serve in the best capacity I know how.  I educate myself and anyone who will listen.  It angers me to see the current trend to deface the flag which symbolizes what so many have fought and many have died for.  My ancestors for generations served and my son currently serves in the military and I have a renewed sense of what it means to be a patriot.  It’s a shame that patriotism isn’t being instilled in todays youth.  I learned flag etiquette in the Boy Scouts at 11 years of age.  I can still properly fold a flag and have one that belonged to my grandfather, who served in WWII, folded at home.  I think patriotism; love of country, is an extension of love of one’s neighbor and respect.  Keep up the good work you do.  There are plenty of tools talking trash but, have no substance to offer.  Thank you and all who serve, military or whatever.  Thanks to all who are willing to do what is necessary to secure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; whatever you do.

    • radioreject Thanks for the kind words and sharing your thoughts brother.

  • Tony McNeil

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

  • Andrew Blair

    The best way to fold the flag.

  • Brad Calahan

    Are you freaking kidding me?

  • Andrew Blair

    Whats wrong with it? Its shining.

  • Eric Graves

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

  • Justin Udvardy

    Bryan Black

  • Jared Drury

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

  • Aaron Kravik

    Beat me to it

  • Lars Mårten Rikard Nilsson

    They aren’t mutually exlusive…

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

    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

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

  • ITS Tactical

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

  • Dan Beauchemin

    I’m not too good at it but I know how to do it

  • Ken Nielson

    You suck!

  • Ken Nielson

    Andrew Blair you suck too.

  • 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.

  • Kevin Robinson

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

  • Kevin Robinson

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

  • Rusty Alverson

    Eat shit

  • 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.

  • 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

  • Benjamin Smith

    Then you can freaking move out of my country..

  • Jared Drury

    Your country? I don’t think so.

  • 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.

  • Edward Schroeder

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

  • 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

  • Billy Max Neitz

    Flaggots, getting butt hurt over cloth.

  • Nick Goettl

    You should throw your mother in the trash..

  • Nick Goettl

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

  • Joshua Jedidiah


  • Joshua Jedidiah

    Don’t feed the troll noobs

  • Joshua Jedidiah

    With democratic tendencies

  • Andrew Blair

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

  • 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

    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.

  • Matthew Iron Beard Woods

    That moment when you mistake the importance of a flag and another human life

  • Matthew Iron Beard Woods

    Democracy is evil

  • Matthew Iron Beard Woods

    It effectively allows the enslavement of other interest groups by the bigger ones

  • 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*

  • bullitt4686

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

  • 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.

    • Zabrewolf Thanks brother, I appreciate the kind words.

  • Sean Yunt

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

  • Benjamin Smith

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

  • Tom Linda Brown

    I have my father’s flag

  • Andrew Blair

    Ashley Walker

  • Carlos DeBlanco

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

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