Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Meaning of the 13 Folds of the Flag

There is an email floating around attributing a meaning to each of the 13 folds of the US Flag, used in military funerals. While this email describes a touching rendition, it is not an offical one; and is used only when the deceased family requests it.

The Truth:
The meaning of the folding of the American flag that is described in this eRumor is not without importance, but it is not official and not required.

Public Law 94-344, known as the Federal Flag Code, is the law of the land regarding the handling and displaying of the American flag. It does not include anything regarding the significance or meaning of folding the flag. The code was first adopted by Congress in 1923 and revised numerous times.

According to the American Legion, the code does not call for a ceremonial folding of the flag and the folding procedure is also traditional. Same for the meanings of the folds. Nobody seems to know when or where that originated or who wrote it. There is speculation that it may have come from a chaplain who attached the mostly Judeo-Christian religious meanings to the folds, perhaps for a burial ceremony.

Official or not, the statement has gained status as the traditional meaning of the folds and was found in many governmental and military manuals and recited at numerous military funerals.

In October, 2007, the National Cemetery Administration banned the practice of giving the meaning of the folds of the flag at all national cemeteries, but the decision was quickly revised. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs issued a statement on 10/20/07 saying that any recitations at the graveside of a veteran can reflect the wishes of the family. In other words, if the family wants the meaning of the folds to be included, it can be included.

One additional note: The eRumor says the 21-gun salute originated from adding the digits of 1776. That is not true. According to Arlington Cemetery, the 21-gun salute evolved from many years of various traditions of honoring dignitaries.

Truth Or Fiction

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For more Flag information, see our Squidoo Lens at: Tidbits of Military History

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