The Meaning of the Folding of the American Flag-Truth! & Fiction!






Summary of eRumor:
Message alleges that there is meaning to each fold of the American flag, for example, at a military funeral when the flag is presented to the family of the person who died.  Most of them are of spiritual and religious significance.


The Truth:
The meaning of the folding of the American flag that is described in this eRumor is not without importance, but it is not official and not required.

Public Law 94-344, known as the Federal Flag Code, is the law of the land regarding the handling and displaying of the American flag.  It does not include anything regarding the significance or meaning of folding the flag.  The code was first adopted by Congress in 1923 and revised numerous times.  

According to the American Legion, the code does not call for a ceremonial folding of the flag and the folding procedure is also traditional.  Same for the meanings of the folds. Nobody seems to know when or where that originated or who wrote it.  There is speculation that it may have come from a chaplain who attached the mostly Judeo-Christian religious meanings to the folds, perhaps for a burial ceremony. 

Official or not, the statement has gained status as the traditional meaning of the folds and was found in many governmental and military manuals and recited at numerous military funerals.

In October, 2007, the National Cemetery Administration banned the practice of giving the meaning of the folds of the flag at all national cemeteries, but the decision was quickly revised.  The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs issued a statement on 10/20/07 saying that any recitations at the graveside of a veteran can reflect the wishes of the family.  In other words, if the family wants the meaning of the folds to be included, it can be included.

One additional note:  The eRumor says the 21-gun salute originated from adding the digits of 1776.  That is not true.  According to Arlington Cemetery , the 21-gun salute evolved from many years of various traditions of honoring dignitaries.   


A real example of the story as it has been circulated:


Have you ever noticed on TV or at military funerals that the honor guard pays meticulous attention to correctly folding the American flag 13 times? 

I've known how the 21 gun salute was determined (adding the individual digits of 1776), but only recently learned why the flag was folded 13 times when it is lowered or when it is folded and handed to the widow at the burial of a veteran. 

HERE IT IS: The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life. 

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

The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing our ranks who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of our country to attain peace throughout the world. 

The fourth fold represents our weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in time of war for His divine guidance. 

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." 

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. 

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 her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our republic. 

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 mother, for whom it flies on Mother's Day. 

The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood; for it has been through their faith, their love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great has been molded. 

The tenth fold is a tribute to the father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since they were first born. 

The eleventh fold, in the eyes of a Hebrew citizen 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. 

The twelfth 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 Spirit. 

When the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost reminding us of our nation's motto, "In God We Trust". After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington, and the sailors and marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones, who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States, preserving for us the rights, privileges, and freedoms we enjoy today. There are some traditions and ways of doing things which have deep meaning. You will see many flags folded in the coming weeks, and now you will know why.