A United States burial casket flag drapes the casket of deceased veterans to honor the memory of their service to the country. The ceremonial folding and presentation of the flag is a moving tribute of lasting importance to the veteran’s family.
The flag is placed on a closed casket so the union blue field is at the head and over the left shoulder of the deceased. 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.
“While Public Law 94-344 does not place any significance or meaning to the thirteen folds of the American flag, the sentiments below have been adopted as a tradition by veterans and family members of veterans of our great nation as they reflect what we recognize about our flag and our country. They give meaning and hope to those family members who have lost a loved one who served in our great nation’s military preserving and fighting for our freedoms.
After Taps is played, the flag is carefully folded into the symbolic tri-cornered shape. A properly proportioned flag will fold thirteen times on the triangles, representing the original thirteen colonies with each fold representing a uniqueness of its own as explained below. The folded flag is emblematic of the tri-cornered hat worn by the Patriots of the American Revolution. When folded, no red or white stripe is to be evident, leaving only the blue field with stars.
Meaning of the thirteen folds:
Have you ever noticed that the honor guard pays meticulous attention to correctly folding the United States of America Flag thirteen times?
The 1st fold of the flag is a symbol of life.
The 2nd fold is a symbol of the belief in eternal life.
The 3rd fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing the ranks who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of the country to attain peace throughout the world.
The 4th 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 the time of war for His divine guidance.
The 5th 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 6th fold is for where people’s 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 7th 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 be found within or without the boundaries of their republic.
The 8th 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 9th 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 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 Nations 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 them the rights, privileges and freedoms they enjoy today.
Effective April 17, 2012, the Department of Defense standardized the flag presentation verbiage for military funeral honors ceremonies. The following verbiage will be used when presenting the American flag during the funeral service:
‘On behalf of the President of the United States, (the United States Army; the United States Marine Corps; the United States Navy; or the United States Air Force), and a grateful Nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.’
It is then presented as a keepsake to the next of kin or an appropriate family member.