Young Boy doing Math © Young girl counting


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

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.

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.

Author  Unknown

"I noted the page on your site which staes the meanings of the 13 folds of the flag, and why we fold the flag so carefully 13 times.
 It is wrong. I perform military funerals all the time.
 We fold the flag carefully because because we don't want it to come out sloppy.
 It just happens to have 13 folds, and if the flag is proportioned properly, 9 inches will be left over, and needs to be folded and tucked in--another fold.
 This was written by someone, and it is annoying that everyone who repeats on the internet is creating the impression it is official.
 The United States govenment assigns no meaning to the folds, and no meanings to the colors.  In fact, the sizes and proportions were never specified by the US government until 1959, when President Eisenhower signed the executive order adding the 50th star to the flag. 
 Every website that finds it and republishes the meaning of the 13 folds furthers this misconception.
 They have no more meaning that that which you or I might make up ourselves.
 Please take the page down.
JM Lee
Please take it down."

I've been asked to remove this page and respectfully refuse to remove it, rather I will explain: 

"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 each of the folds has a special symbolic meaning; the flag is folded this way 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.  This thirteen-fold procedure was a common practice long before the creation of a ceremonial assignation of "meaning" to each of the steps.

An elaborate flag folding ceremony incorporating these meanings has since been devised for special occasions such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day.  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."


While the author of this article is unknown, it's been brought to my attention that it's untrue and while there are no actual 13 folds, I feel these 13 folds are in fact true to those who've lost a loved one.  The heartfelt meanings are there whether there are words or not.  Thank you for your service Mr. Lee.  As the mother of three Marines and a family member of many who have served this great United States, I do have very strong feelings regarding our Flag and how it is handled and regarded.  It is my intention to bring a positive view to my patrons and there will be those who disagree... But, isn't that what living in this Free America is all about?  God Bless America and those who keep her free!

Mrs. E

Additional Comments Submitted to me:

"While Public Law 94-344 does not place any significance or meaning to the 13 folds of the American flag the sentiments written above have been adopted as a tradition by many 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 fighting for our freedoms. There are a multitude of sites online and other entities which claim that these meanings have never been official but, if you talk to many veterans of our great country these words do have a great significance and meaning and are official in that sense.  Tell me what makes a tradition? Does it just crop up one day and become a reality? How did our national song come about? Was it an official publication written into a law somewhere to begin with or did the people adopt it and it then become our National Anthem?  There are those who take issue with the religious nature of the lines but that is all a matter or preference and that is what fighting for our freedom gave us the freedom to choose religion or not to choose it along with all of our other rights.  Who are you to say that this needs to be taken down and ignored? I fought for freedom of speech right along with all of the other rights that we enjoy today and am permanently disabled because of it. I appreciate your view as that is what you have the right to do but don’t take exception when others raise their voice as it is their God given right and they are exercising it by the laws of our Country and Constitution."

L. Halamek, PO3 US Navy

Disabled Veteran


"Please keep this posted. If in fact the 13 folds do not have meaning per say it would be a good thing to try to get passed into law. Our veterans need something more then just the flag folded and these reasons give meaning to that......."
William T Huiss

"I received this message a couple of times and have never tired of reading it. The symbolic message is one that takes my breath away each time! Just the awesomeness of what the TRUE meaning is, makes me more proud of our service men and women and our country, our Flag of Freedom, and no matter what problems our country faces, it is STILL the best! The reason for the flag folding it 13 ways should be taught in school along with the Pledge. Not very many people know "Why"...."

Jeanne Rose
Wittmann, AZ


I am preparing a document for the local American Legion that discussed the meaning of the folds.  I stumbled into your site as a result.  Although this is a explanation of the folds that is circulating, I wonder if you would be willing to at least post the web sites for the myriad others out there.


The title of the piece is where we get the impression that this is "why" and that it is based in history.  The information is interesting but it is not why the flag is folded that way.


The version of the flag folding explanation you selected would not be appropriate for a Jewish or Muslim Veteran or for any event where a Veteran's Jewish and Muslim friends and family might be present.  It has become common to hear one of the scripts at retirement ceremonies but not the one you offer on your site.


We are one Nation under God but we are a nation of all faiths as well.  All service members are taught to honor and respect all service members regardless of their faith affiliation.


There are several good options on this web site:

This one is nice:

This is the AF version (Marines do not have one they endorse)



It is clear you are proud of your Marines.  As an AF Veteran and Chaplain to my local American Legion Post, I have been honored to help with military funerals at Arlington Cemetery, and many community cemeteries.  I think there is a place for these various scripts that talk about history and tradition.  they are all teaching tools.  The one you use has a few places where the information is stretched to fit the script which is another reason I suggest using a different one.






 Some notes about the version you posted:


The 21-gun salute dates back to the 14th century — well before the European discovery of the Americas. Britain promoted a 21-gun salute in the 18th century, well before the American Revolution of 1776. The fact that the numerals in 1776 add up to 21 is coincidence.  Additionally, the U.S. did not use a 21-gun salute originally, but instead used as many guns as there were states. Again, according to the Army’s Center for Military History:  The gun salute system of the United States has changed considerably over the years. In 1810, the “national salute” was defined by the War Department as equal to the number of states in the Union–at that time 17.


In 1842, the Presidential salute was formally established at 21 guns. In 1890, regulations designated the “national salute” as 21 guns and re-designated the traditional Independence Day salute, the “Salute to the Union,” equal to the number of states. Fifty guns are also fired on all military installations equipped to do so at the close of the day of the funeral of a President, ex-President, or President-elect.


Today the national salute of 21 guns is fired in honor of a national flag, the sovereign or chief of state of a foreign nation, a member of a reigning royal family, and the President, ex-President and President-elect of the United States. It is also fired at noon of the day of the funeral of a President, ex-President, or President-elect.


Veterans receive a rifle volley at their funerals – this is not a 21 gun salute.  The rifle volley is three shots fired by any number of rifles.


The text


Using the 13 colonies a device to help flag folders figure out if they fold the flag correctly.   If the flag in its prescribed dimensions is folded correctly, there will be 13 folds. If  the flag longer, or narrower, there would be more.


The religious connotations for folds 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 11, 12, and 13 are not equally accepted by all veterans.  This is an especially Christo-centric text.  Although a veteran may be Christian, he/she may have friends of other faith groups who would find this text for our flag very inappropriate.


Stephen Decatur’s quote is paraphrased from the original:  Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 16th Edition. Stephan Decatur, hero of the skirmishes with Tripoli and the War of 1812, offered a toast to the nation, at a banquet at Norfolk, Virginia, in April 1816: “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong.”


The naval method of folding flags predates the Pledge of Allegiance. The phrase “one nation, under God, indivisible,” was not included in the pledge until 1954. As originally adopted by Congress in 1931, the Pledge said “one nation indivisible.”


The original pledge was written by Francis Bellamy in 1892, years after the folding of the flag was tradition. This implies this script must have been drafted after that time.  That would mean this is not related to why the flag has been folded this way since the beginning.


The 12th fold refers to the U.S. motto, “In God We Trust.” That was declared the nation’s motto in 1956 (Public Law 84-140). An additional note:  Prior to 1956, questions about the nation’s motto usually were answered with reference to the Seal of the United States, which bears three mottos: “E Pluribus Unum” on the obverse (Out of many, one), and “Novus Ordo Seclorum” (A new order of the ages), and “Annuit Coeptis” (Providence has favored our undertakings) on the reverse. Those mottoes are based on lines from the poetry of the Roman, Virgil.  That would mean this is not related to why the flag has been folded this way since the beginning.


The resemblance of a triangle to a tricorn hat seems purely coincidental since the folding procedure preceded the use of that hat during the American Revolution.


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