One of my listeners sent me a story about “Why the American Flag is Folded 13 Times.” This is another one of those emails that get passed around via the Internet, so we checked out the accuracy of the story. It turns out that it is NOT true that there was originally a specific meaning to each fold and that’s why there are 13 folds. The American flag isn’t folded this way because each of the folds has a symbolic meaning; the procedure for folding the flag 13 times was in place long before there was an assigned “meaning” to each fold. These associations have sprung up over the years, and they have come to mean something to those who participate in the flag folding ceremony, but they are not the reason why a flag is folded 13 times.
Nonetheless, I found the “meanings” that have been attributed to each fold very moving, and I’m posting them here as something to contemplate as we display our flags for the Fourth of July:
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, the 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.