What is the meaning of the folds in a flag-folding ceremony?
There is no reference to meaning of the folds in the Flag Code. Read the new Air Force Folding Ceremony. There is also a popular but unauthorized flag-folding ceremony.
· There is no shortage of scripts available that can be read aloud during a flag folding, but many of those scripts are religious in nature and also ascribe meaning to the individual folds put into the flag. One of the oldest of those scripts is attributed to an anonymous chaplain at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
· Individuals who hear those scripts end up attributing the contents of the script to the U.S. Air Force. But the reality is that neither Congress, nor federal laws related to the flag, assign any special meaning to the individual folds. Lt. Col. Samuel Hudspath, Air Force protocol chief said that was the primary motive for creating a new flag-folding script.
· 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. It was first adopted by Congress in 1923 and revised numerous times.
What follows is an unofficial, but popular script for folding the flag. It does not appear in the Flag Code and would appear to be in violation of military guidelines, in violation of the Establishment Clause. The Establishment Clause requires that expression not create the reasonable impression that the government is sponsoring, endorsing, or inhibiting religion generally, or favoring or disfavoring a particular religion. See discussion and references at the end of this page for more information. There are numerous variations to be found circulating online and in newsgroups and e-mails. We have not been successful in discovering its origin or authorship. In fold 6, the Pledge is quoted with the words "under God," which were added to the Pledge in 1954.
Web Links and References to the flag-folding ceremony can be found later on this page.
The flag folding ceremony represents the same religious principles on which our country was originally founded. The portion of the flag denoting honor is the canton of blue containing the stars representing the states our veterans served in uniform. The canton field of blue dresses from left to right and is inverted when draped as a pall on a casket of a veteran who has served our country in uniform.
In the Armed Forces of the United States, at the ceremony of retreat the flag is lowered, folded in a triangle fold and kept under watch throughout the night as a tribute to our nation's honored dead. The next morning it is brought out and, at the ceremony of reveille, run aloft as a symbol of our belief in the resurrection of the body.
(Wait for the Honor Guard or Flag Detail to unravel and fold the flag into a quarter fold--resume reading when Honor Guard is standing ready.)
When the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, "In God we Trust."
(Wait for the Honor Guard or Flag Detail to inspect the flag--after the inspection, resume reading.)
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.
A properly proportioned flag will fold 13 times on the triangles, representing the 13 Original Colonies (Note: This was not true - The folds did not represent 13 Original Colonies. The folding of the flag just happens to come to a 13 count. Between 1777 and 1960, the shape and design of the flag evolved into the flag presented before you today. The 13 horizontal stripes represent the original 13 colonies, while the stars represent the 50 states of the Union. The colors of the flag are symbolic as well; red symbolizes hardiness and valor; white signifies purity and innocence; and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.). When finally complete the triangular folded flag is emblematical of the tri-corner hat worn by the Patriots of the American Revolution. When folded no red or white stripe is to be evident leaving only the honor field of blue and stars.
Reference: Flag Etiquette
Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez, Air Force Print News
Air Force leaders recently approved a new script that can be read during flag-folding ceremonies.
Though there are no official ceremonies in the Air Force that require a script to be read when a flag is folded, unofficial ceremonies such as retirements often do, said Lt. Col. Samuel Hudspath, Air Force protocol chief.
"We have had a tradition within the Air Force of individuals requesting that a flag be folded, with words, at their retirement ceremony," he said. "This new script was prepared by Air Force services to provide Air Force recognized words to be used at those times."
There is no shortage of scripts available that can be read aloud during a flag folding, but many of those scripts are religious in nature and also ascribe meaning to the individual folds put into the flag. One of the oldest of those scripts is attributed to an anonymous chaplain at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Individuals who hear those scripts end up attributing the contents of the script to the U.S. Air Force. But the reality is that neither Congress, nor federal laws related to the flag, assign any special meaning to the individual folds. Hudspath said that was the primary motive for creating a new flag-folding script.
"Our intent was to move away from giving meaning, or appearing to give meaning, to the folds of the flag and to just speak to the importance of the flag in U.S. Air Force history," he said.
The new script, approved in July, focuses on flag history and the significance of the flag within the Air Force: "Today, our flag flies on constellations of Air Force satellites that circle our globe, and on the fin flash of our aircraft in harms way in every corner of the world. Indeed, it flies in the heart of every Airman who serves our great nation. The sun never sets on our Air Force, nor on the flag we so proudly cherish," the new script reads.
The new script is available at base protocol offices for use by anybody who wants to lend significance to a flag folding, Hudspath said. The script will not be used at retreats or funerals, as those are silent ceremonies.
"These ceremonies are meaningful to individuals, especially at their retirement," he said. "We wanted to offer a script, containing factual information that shows respect for the flag and expresses our gratitude for those individuals who protect our country, both at home and abroad."
By October, officials said the Air Force will make a video available to protocol offices and honor guard units that demonstrates a flag-folding ceremony using the new script.
Thanks to TSgt Carey Gaul for sending this to ushistory.org in January, 2006
For more than 200 years, the American flag has been the symbol of our nation's unity, as well as a source of pride and inspiration for millions of citizens.
Born on June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress determined that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternating between seven red and six white; and that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation.1
Between 1777 and 1960, the shape and design of the flag evolved into the flag presented before you today. The 13 horizontal stripes represent the original 13 colonies, while the stars represent the 50 states of the Union. The colors of the flag are symbolic as well; red symbolizes hardiness and valor; white signifies purity and innocence; and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.1
Traditionally, a symbol of liberty, the American flag has carried the message of freedom, and inspired Americans, both at home and abroad.
In 1814, Francis Scott Key was so moved at seeing the Stars and Stripes waving after the British shelling of Baltimore's Fort McHenry that he wrote the words to The Star Spangled Banner.3
In 1892 the flag inspired Francis Bellamy to write the "Pledge of Allegiance," our most famous flag salute and patriotic oath.3
In July 1969 the American flag was "flown" in space when Neil Armstrong planted it on the surface of the moon.3
Today, our flag flies on constellations of Air Force satellites that circle our globe, and on the fin flash of our aircraft in harms way in every corner of the world. Indeed, it flies in the heart of every Airman who serves our great Nation. The sun never sets on our US Air Force, nor on the flag we so proudly cherish.3
Since 1776 no generation of Americans has been spared the responsibility of defending freedom... Today's Airmen remain committed to preserving the freedom that others won for us, for generations to come.
By displaying the flag and giving it a distinctive fold we show respect to the flag, and express our gratitude to those individuals who fought, and continue to fight for freedom, at home and abroad. Since the dawn of the 20th century, Airmen have proudly flown the flag in every major conflict on lands and skies around the world. It is their responsibility ... our responsibility ... to continue to protect and preserve the rights, privileges and freedoms that we, as Americans, enjoy today.
The United States flag represents who we are. It stands for the freedom we all share and the pride and patriotism we feel for our country. We cherish its legacy, as a beacon of hope to one and all. Long may it wave.
(1) From a report Secretary of Congress Robert Thompson wrote to define the Seal of our Nation (1777).
(2) Text from President Woodrow Wilson's Flag Day message (1917).
(3) Based upon historical facts.
From --- Snopes.com ----- http://www.snopes.com/military/flagfold.htm
Claim: An American flag is traditionally folded thirteen times because each of the folds has a special meaning.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2001]
Have you ever wondered why the Flag of the United States of America is folded 13 times when it is lowered or when it is folded and handed to the next of kin at the burial of a veteran?
Here is the meaning of each of those folds and what it means:
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, 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.
The thirteenth fold: 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.
The next time you see a Flag ceremony honoring someone that has served our country, either in the Armed Forces or in our civilian services such as the Police Force or Fire Department, keep in mind all the important reasons behind each and every movement. They have paid the ultimate sacrifice for all of us by honoring our Flag and our Country.
This item about the meanings of the folds in a flag reminds me of a joke told by deadpan comedian Steven Wright: "Why is the alphabet in that order? Is it because of that song?" As often happens, a "meaning" has been grafted onto some facet of everyday life, to the point that the symbolic, after the fact meaning has been confused with the original purpose.
Traditional flag etiquette prescribes that before an American flag is stored or presented, its handlers should twice fold it in half lengthwise; then (from the end opposite the blue field) make a triangular fold, continuing to fold it in triangles until the other end is reached. This makes a triangular "pillow" of the flag with only the blue starred field showing on the outside, and it takes thirteen folds to produce: two lengthwise folds and eleven triangular ones.
The American flag isn't folded in this manner because the thirteen folds correspond to the original thirteen states, or because the folding produces a shape resembling a cocked hat, or because each of the folds has a special symbolic meaning. The flag is folded this way simply because it provides a dignified ceremonial touch that distinguishes folding a flag from folding an ordinary object such as a bed sheet, and because it results a visually pleasing, easy-to-handle shape. That this process requires thirteen folds is coincidental, not the product of design.
An even more elaborate flag folding ceremony has since been devised for special occasions such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day, one which incorporates the association of particular symbolic meanings with each fold of the flag. These associations are "real" in the sense that they mean something to the people who participate in the ceremony, but they are not the reason why a flag is folded in the traditional thirteen-step manner. As was the case with the candy cane, an invented (religious) symbolism has become so widespread that it is now often mistakenly assumed to have been an integral part of the origins of the item it is associated with.
The Meaning of the Folding of the American Flag
Truth! & Fiction! http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/f/foldsoftheflag.htm
Summary of eRumor:
The following is a
letter from MAAF member Chris Anderson regarding a religious flag folding
ceremony often passed off as the "Official" ceremony to accompany the folding of
the American Flag.
After researching numerous military regulations and directives as well as U.S. code, I am unable to find any official meaning to the individual folds as stated in this ceremony. Sources of the information regarding this ceremony refer to the United States Air Force Academy web page. I contacted the USAFA protocol office in December 2002 concerning this very ceremony. After months of research and internet correspondence, the USAFA replied that this is not an official ceremony and that its origin is unknown. The USAFA has now removed this version of the ceremony from its web site. When people have questions concerning official ceremonies involving our flag, they turn to official .gov or .mil web sites for the answers. The proper perception is that only legitimate information should be posted on a .gov address. It is obvious the intent of your site is to provide accurate information to the people. You believed us.usafa.af.MIL to be a reliable source of information, just as others will quote your site as a reliable source of official information. In order to ensure this religious flag-folding ceremony is not portrayed as an official government-sponsored flag-folding ceremony, I ask you to remove it from your .gov site. Below is a list of documents I searched in regards to the ceremony. The Air Force conducted its own search of documents after I contacted them in December 2002.
Army Regulation 840-10
Army Regulation 600-25 Field Manual 22-5 US Code, Title 36, Chap 10 US Code,
Title 4, Chap 1
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