The American flag is a source of pride, patriotism, and freedom for American civilians. When you aren’t displaying your flag, folding it into a triangle is crucial for keeping it safe and preventing it from being dirtied or ruined. So, here’s how to properly fold the American flag and flag-folding rules to preserve it.
Are There Flag-Folding Guidelines?
It should be known that there is no official way to fold the American flag, as the US Flag Code is the best resource for flag etiquette and display. It discusses the rules of where, when, and how to display the American flag, but it doesn’t cover any guidelines regarding folding.
Only some flags will fold into the same shape with the same number of folds due to flags varying in size. Standard flag sizes range from 12x18”, 3x5”, 4x6”, 5x8”, and larger. However, there’s a standard ratio of government flags, as well as each branch of the military’s unique variation in handling the American flag. Therefore, while there is no proper way to fold the American flag, the Flag-Folding Procedure respects the flag and what it represents.
Let’s review the steps for adequately folding the American flag, from how it should be folded, as well as the necessary storage procedures. Practicing an effective way to fold your flag will help keep it protected and pristine.
Lower the Flag Slowly
You want to start by slowly lowering your flag from the flagpole. Then, you loosen the line and gently pull the cords to bring the flag toward the ground. You want to do this slowly and in a revert manner, as it will show respect towards the flag.
As it gets closer to the bottom, you’ll want to gather it together to prevent it from touching the ground. Then, carefully slide it off the line and secure the line in place along the pole.
Don’t Let it Touch the Ground
Once you contact the flag, you want to prevent it from touching the ground at any time. Letting the American flag touch the ground is a sign of disrespect, so it’s crucial to keep it clean and not allow it to remain off the ground. You can keep it elevated by holding it with a partner or folding it on a clean, dry surface, like a dinner table or countertop.
Straighten Out the Flag
After you’ve removed the American flag from the flagpole, there are a couple of ways to prepare the flag for folding. Firstly, if you’re working alone, you can have it flat on a table. Your flag should remain face up with the field of blue at the top, ensuring the flag is smooth and free of wrinkles.
If you’re working with a partner, each person should hold the flag parallel to the ground at waist height, with each partner holding onto one corner of the flag. But, again, keep it from touching the ground.
Fold Lower Section Over Blue Field
As your American flag is prepared, start folding the bottom bottoms up to the edge of the field of stars. Bringing the bottom edge up and aligning it with the top edge will help create an even fold. Check for any wrinkles or unevenness before moving on to the next step.
When working with a partner, adjust your hands, so each person has the middle fold in one hand and the layered corners in the other. Again, check for unevenness or wrinkles to ensure a smooth, even flag.
Bring Folded Edge to Top Edge
After you’ve folded the striped edge to the field of stars edge, you can start creating the second fold. You’ll bring the folded edge to the top edge of the double fold, having the field of stars visible on both sides of the flag. When working with a partner, each person will hold two corners and a folded edge in one hand while the bottom folded edge is in the other.
Make a Flag Triangle
Once you’ve folded your American flag a couple of times, it’s time to create a triangle shape. You’ll start creating a triangle fold by bending the striped corner to the top edge, aligning itself to look like a triangle. Check for any wrinkles and ensure each side of the triangle is of equal length. Next, take the pointed corner of your first triangle and fold it over to create a second triangle. The edge of the first triangle should remain aligned with the folded flag edge, once again looking like a triangle.
As you keep folding, keep checking for wrinkles and keep it smooth. You should have 13 folds in total, only having the field of stars visible. After ensuring each triangle is the same size, tuck the end of the flag into the open fold of the triangle, only leaving the field of stars visible. The triangle shape represents the 3-corner hat worn by revolutionaries who fought for American independence and freedom.
Care, Storage, and Maintenance
One of the ways to store your American flag is by keeping it in a triangle-shaped display case. It’s a reverent way to display the flag with honor and pride and for families to remember their family members. You can also store your American flag in a clean, dry place in a closet or drawer in a case or plastic container to protect it from dirt and dust.
Ensure that your folded American flag remains in a secure spot, so it doesn’t get mixed up with other linens or fall on the floor. If it’s being displayed, ensure that it’s appropriately hung or displayed on a stable shelf. You don’t want it to become damaged or fall out of its storage place, as it’s disrespectful to the flag to become dirtied or damaged.
The Meaning of the Flag-Folding Procedure
The flag-folding ceremony represents the same principles America was initially founded upon. The blue field of stars represents states of veterans who served in uniform, dressing from left to right, and only inverted when draped as a pall on a veteran’s casket.
While the origin of the Flag-Folding Procedure isn’t known, sources attribute it to the American Gold Star Mothers. In contrast, others claim the Air Force chaplain stationed in the United States Air Force Academy. As the origins of the Flag-Folding Procedure remain a mystery, it’s provided as a patriotic service to all veterans.
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