When displayed, the American flag should be allowed to fall freely without any part touching the ground or surface below it. With that said, it’s not uncommon for military veterans or military servicemembers to fold the American flag. Military funerals, for example, often involve ceremonies in which servicemembers or veterans carry a folded American flag. In instances such as this, the American flag is folded in a very specific way. So, how exactly is the American flag folded?
The American Flag Is Folded 13 Times
As explained by The American Legion, the American flag is folded 13 times to achieve a triangular shape revealing one of the flag’s stars. To fold the American flag, you must first lay it out on a flat surface, after which you can fold it lengthwise to achieve a rectangular shape. Next, you’ll need to fold it lengthwise once again so that the stars are visible in the upper-left corner. Now take the bottom-right corner of the American flag and fold it upwards to form a triangle. You should then create a second triangle by folding the upper-right area of the flag down and inwards. Finally, continue this triangular folding motion until the American flag is a complete triangle with only the stars visible.
The ‘Cocked Hat’ Appearance
After the American flag has been folded 13 times, it will resemble a cocked hat. Also known as a tricorne, cocked hats were worn by American soldiers during the American Revolution. They feature a triangular shape similar to that of a properly folded American flag.
The Meaning of the 13 Folds
So, what is the meaning of the American flag’s 13 folds? According to The American Legion, the first fold represents life; the second fold represents belief in eternal life; the third fold honors our nation’s fallen veterans; the fourth fold symbolizes humanity’s weaker nature; the fifth fold is a tribute to the United States; the sixth fold symbolizes the Pledge of Allegiance; the seventh fold honors our nation’s armed forces; the eighth fold is a tribute to fallen loved ones; the ninth fold honors womanhood; the tenth fold honors fathers; the 11th fold symbolizes the Seal of King David and King Solomon; and the 12th fold symbolizes eternity. When the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, “In God We Trust”.
It’s important to note that the American flag was not originally folded 13 times specifically for these meanings. Rather, the aforementioned meanings have evolved over the course of the American flag’s centuries-old history. Today, each fold is synonymous with a specific meaning.