The life and death of a member of the military is commemorated in ceremonies and tradition. One of the more popular practices during a military funeral is the draping of the country’s flag on the casket.
During the flag folding ceremony, the flag is carefully folded a total of thirteen times by six honor guards. These folds have been assigned symbolic meanings to provide religious significance to the participants and the ritual itself.
The first fold begins by grasping the flag horizontally between the flag folders. It is held parallel to the ground and at waist height. The flag is then folded lengthwise, positioning the stripes over the stars.
This first fold is said to symbolize life. The flag is then folded lengthwise one more time with the stars outside the fold. This fold symbolizes the people’s belief in eternal life. In some cases, if the flag is too large, it may need to be folded this way three times.
Starting from the striped folded edge, a triangle-shaped fold is created by bringing the said edge towards the open edge. This first triangular fold is to honor and remember the former member of the armed forces who gave part of his or her life to defending the country. A second triangle fold is made by turning the initial triangle’s outer point inward. This triangle symbolizes the citizen’s weaker nature.
This triangular folding is repeated nine more times until only the stars can be seen. The flag should now resemble a hat. The corresponding symbols for the fifth to thirteenth folds are as follows: tribute to America, the heart of the people, tribute to the military, tribute to the ones who have died before, honor to womanhood, honor to fathers, glory of the seals of King Solomon and King David, glory to the Holy Trinity, and the stars.
After the folding of the flag, a member of the Honor Guards presents the flag to the next of kin. The representative usually kneels in front of the recipient and holds out the flag while reciting a short passage. This piece varies depending on the military branch to which the honor guard belongs.
The flag folding ceremony at a funeral service is a very impactful way to commemorate the life of a veteran or fallen soldier.