[Contributed by Tony Agosta, ME-3 USS SAVAGE (DER-386) 1955 - 1957. Photographs courtesy of the United States Navy.]
Have you ever noticed the honor guard pays meticulous attention to correctly folding the United States of America Flag 13 times? You probably thought it was to symbolize the original 13 colonies, but we learn something new every day!
The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.
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 them the rights, privileges and freedoms they enjoy today. There are some traditions and ways of doing things that have deep meaning. In the future, you'll see flags folded and now you will know why.
The 2nd fold is a symbol of the belief in eternal life.
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 6th fold is for where people's hearts lie. It is with their heart that They pledge allegiance to the flag of the United! States Of America, and the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.
What the Flag Draped Coffin Means
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 uniform. 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.
Do you know that at military funerals, the 21-gun salute stands for the sum of the numbers in the year 1776?
The 7th fold is a tribute to its Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that they protect their country and their flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of their 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.
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 10th fold is a tribute to the father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of their country since they were first born.
The 11th fold represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies in the Hebrews eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The 12th fold represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in the Christians eyes, God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.
The 13th fold, or when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost reminding them of their nations motto,"In God We Trust."
The folded folded flag is then handed to the spouse or family member. These words are then spoken:
"On behalf of the President of the United States, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, and a grateful nation please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's service to Country and the Coast Guard."
"On behalf of the President of the United States and the Chief of Naval Operations, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's service to this Country and a grateful Navy."