We do a lot of things with the flag other than flying it high, but I often don’t think we realize why we do those things with the flag. All of the actions we do with the flag are done out of respect for our country, service people have rendered to that country and, of course, respect to the flag itself.
One of the things that is done to the flag is after it has covered the coffin of a fallen soldier, it is folded. Why is it folded and why is it folded the way it is done? A friend of mine recently e-mailed this explanation to me and it follows:
“The first fold of the flag is a symbol of life. The second fold is a symbol of the belief in eternal life. The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the departing hero’s giving of a portion of his or her life in defense of the country to attain peace throughout the world. The fourth fold represents the weaker nature, for 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. The fifth fold is a tribute to the 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 peoples’ hearts lie. It is with their heart that they pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. The seventh fold is a tribute to its armed forces, for it is through the armed forces that they protect their country and their flag against all her enemies, whether they are found within or without the boundaries of their 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.
“The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood and mothers 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 10th fold is a tribute to the father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of their country since they were first born. The 11th fold represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and it glorifies, in the Hebrews’ eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The 12th fold represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in the Christians’ eyes, God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit. The 13th fold, or when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost reminding them of their nation’s motto, ‘In God We Trust.’
“After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked tri-corn hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under Gen. George Washington as well as the sailors and marines who served under Capt. John Paul Jones, who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the armed forces of the United States, preserving for them the rights, privileges and freedoms they enjoy today.”
The folding of the flag is a very solemn ritual filled with much tradition and deep meaning. In the future, you will see flags folded and now you will know why it is done the way it is. Share this with all your loved ones and especially the children so that it deepens their understanding of the meaning of Flag Day every June 14.
Larry Wilson is a 50-year resident of Sparks and a retired elementary school teacher. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.