As an Army and Navy custom, the flag is lowered daily
at the last note of retreat. Special care should be
taken that no part of the flag touches the ground. The
Flag is then carefully folded into the shape of a
tri-cornered hat, emblematic of the hats worn by
colonial soldiers during the war for Independence. In
the folding, the red and white stripes are finally
wrapped into the blue, as the light of day vanishes into
the darkness of night.
This custom of special folding is reserved for
the United States Flag alone.
How to fold the Flag
To properly fold the Flag, begin by holding it
waist-high with another person so that its surface is
parallel to the ground.
Fold the lower half of the stripe section lengthwise
over the field of stars, holding the bottom and
top edges securely.
Fold the flag again lengthwise with the blue
field on the outside.
Make a triangular fold by bringing the striped corner
of the folded edge to meet the open (top) edge of the
Turn the outer (end) point inward, parallel to the
open edge, to form a second triangle.
The triangular folding is continued until the entire
length of the flag is folded in this manner.
When the flag is completely folded, only a triangular
blue field of stars should be visible.
Flag Folding Ceremony
folding ceremony described by the Uniformed Services
is a dramatic and uplifting way to honor the flag on
special days, like Memorial Day or Veterans Day, and
is sometimes used at retirement ceremonies.
Here is a typical sequence of the reading:
(Begin reading as Honor Guard or Flag Detail is
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
In the Armed Forces of the United States, 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.
(Wait for the Honor Guard or Flag Detail to
unravel and fold the flag into a quarter fold--resume
reading when Honor Guard is standing ready.)
The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.
The second fold is a symbol of our belief in the
The third fold is made in honor and remembrance
of the veteran departing our ranks who gave a
portion of life for the defense of our country to
attain a peace throughout the world.
The fourth fold represents our weaker nature,
for 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 her
enemies, whether they be found within or without the
boundaries of our republic.
The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who
entered in to 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, love, loyalty and
devotion that the character of the men and women who
have made this country great have been molded.
The tenth fold is a tribute to 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 Ghost.
When the flag is completely folded, the stars
are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto,
"In God we Trust."
(Wait for the Honor Guard or Flag Detail to
inspect the flag--after the inspection, resume
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