Today is Flag Day. In a world where people burn the American flag in anger, I felt that I should share an article written by a Past National Commander of The American Legion and include the meaning of the flag folding ceremony. As you’ll read below, respect has been earned by the sacrifice that every American veteran has paid…every soldier, flyboy, sailor, and Marine of every color.
“Respect The Flag”
By Alvin M. Owsley
Past National Commander, The American Legion
When you see the Stars and Stripes displayed, son, stand up and take off your hat. Somebody may titter. It is in the blood of some to deride all expression of noble sentiment. You may blaspheme in the street and stagger drunken in public places, and the bystanders will not pay much attention to you; but if you should get down on your knees and pray to Almighty God, or if you should stand bareheaded while a company of old soldiers marches by with flags to the breeze, some people will think you are showing off.
But don’t you mind! When Old Glory comes along, salute, and let them think what they please! When you hear the band play “The Star-Spangled Banner” while you are in a restaurant or hotel dining room, get up even if you rise alone; stand there and don’t be ashamed of it, either!
For of all the signs and symbols since the world began there is none other so full of meaning as the flag of this country. That piece of red, white and blue bunting means five thousand years of struggle upward. It is the full-grown flower of ages of fighting for liberty. It is the century plant of human hope in bloom.
Your flag stands for humanity, for an equal opportunity to all the sons of men. Of course we haven’t arrived yet at that goal; there are many injustices yet among us, many senseless and cruel customs of the past still clinging to us, but the only hope of righting the wrongs of men lies in the feeling produced in our bosoms by the sight of that flag.
Other flags mean a glorious past, this flag a glorious future. It is not so much the flag of our fathers as it is the flag of our children, and of all children’s children yet unborn. It is the flag of tomorrow. It is the signal of the “Good Time Coming.” It is not the flag of your king-it is the flag of yourself and of all your neighbors.
Don’t be ashamed when your throat chokes and the tears come, as you see it flying from the masts of our ships on all the seas or floating form every flagstaff of the Republic. You will never have a worthier emotion. Reverence it as you would reverence the signature of the Deity.
Listen, son! The band is playing the national anthem – “The Star-Spangled Banner!” They have let loose Old Glory yonder. Stand up-and others will stand with you.
This tribute to the flag is offered to the country in appeal to all men and women of all races, colors and tongues, that they may come to understand that our flag is the symbol of liberty and learn to love it.
Meaning of Flag-Folding Program
The flag-folding ceremony represents the same religious principles on which our great country was originally founded.
The portion of the flag denoting honor is the canton of blue containing the stars representing states our veterans served in uniform. The canton field of blue dresses from left to right and is inverted only when draped as a pall on the casket of a veteran who has served our country honorably in uniform.
In the U.S. Armed Forces, at the ceremony of retreat, the flag is lowered, folded in a triangle fold and kept under watch throughout the night as a tribute to our nation’s honored dead. The next morning it is brought out and, at the ceremony of reveille, run aloft as a symbol of our belief in the resurrection of the body.
Symbols for the Folds of the Flag
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 veteran departing our ranks, and who gave a portion of his or her life for the defense of our country to attain peace throughout the world.
The fourth fold represents our weaker nature; 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 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 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 our mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day.
The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood, for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great have been molded.
The 10th fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since he or she was first born.
The 11th fold, in the eyes of Hebrew citizens, 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 12th 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 Ghost.
When the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, “In God We Trust.”
After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it has the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under Gen. George Washington and the sailors and Marines who served under Capt. John Paul Jones and were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the U.S. Armed Forces, preserving for us the rights, privileges and freedoms we enjoy today.
The source and the date of origin of this Flag Folding Procedure is unknown, however some sources attribute it to the Gold Star Mothers of America while others to an Air Force chaplain stationed at the United States Air Force Academy. Others consider it to be an urban legend. It is provided as a patriotic service to all.
For more information on Flag Day, feel free to check out The American Legion’s website (https://www.legion.org/flag). By disrespecting the flag, you are disrespecting all of the men and women who have fought and sacrificed for the freedoms of our country. Freedom isn’t free.
If you are not 100% sure that you’ll go to Heaven when you die, now is the time to repent and put your faith and trust in Christ Jesus. If you have any questions or doubts about your salvation, click here to learn how to be saved.
The American Legion. “Meaning of Flag-Folding Program & Symbols for the Folds of the Flag”. https://www.legion.org/flag/folding (Accessed June 14, 2021)