Lisa Noël Babbage
Author, Teacher, Philanthropist
Jun. 18, 2018
“It is easy to take the stars and stripes for granted when you have yet to learn the meaning of one of America's greatest symbols.”
Every year, thousands of American families display the “13 Folds” flag on the mantle, sideboard, or dining room table in order to remember the ultimate sacrifice their loved ones made in defense of this country. Memorial Day, typically celebrated on the last Monday in May, was a federally instituted holiday that began in 1868. These triangular shaped folded flags are symbols not only of death but also the lives they protect. Yet it is easy to take the stars and stripes for granted when you have yet to learn the meaning of one of America’s greatest symbols.
Each fold of the flag presented at military funerals has a special meaning. Not surprising, these ideals represent America’s past as well as her present. But many of us have little to no exposure to the meaning behind these traditions that have become part of American life.
According to the American Legion, America’s largest veteran’s service organizations, the flag folding ceremony represents the same religious principles on which our nation was founded. They outline the meaning behind each fold:
The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.
The second fold signifies our belief in eternal life
The third fold is made in honor and tribute 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.
The fourth fold exemplifies our weaker nature as citizens
trusting in God; it is to Him we turn for His divine guidance.
The fifth fold is an acknowledgment to our country…
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,
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
The ninth fold is an honor 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
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.
The last fold, when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, “In God We Trust.”
While is may seem cliche or overly patriotic, especially today, to think of the symbols each fold is said to represent, it can only be fitting to take a moment to pause and consider the framework in which this tradition, like all American symbols, were created.
Regardless of the life men and women in this country live, they are protected by the ideals upon which this nation was created and continues to exist. We may not carry the meaning of the 13 Folds in our pockets, but we have the rights these folds symbolize because someone else did. For all of the patriotism America has, there is not one greater image of freedom we can wave than our flag.