The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

May 25, 2013

Each fold in flag carries symbolism

By Jeff Mullin, Senior Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — At every military funeral, one thing is constant.

The American flag draped over the casket of the deceased veteran or active-duty member will be folded, solemnly and precisely, into a tight triangle representing the tri-cornered hats worn by those who fought and won the American Revolution.

Each fold also carries its own symbolism.

The first fold is a symbol of life, the second a symbol of belief in eternal life, the third is in honor and remembrance of the deceased veteran. The fourth represents our weaker nature, the fifth is a tribute to our country.

The sixth is for where our hearts lie and the seventh is a tribute to our armed forces. The eighth is a tribute to the one who entered the valley of the shadow of death, while the ninth is a tribute to womanhood and the 10th a tribute to father.

The 11th fold is symbolic to those of the Jewish faith and represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon, while the 12th represents a Christian emblem of eternity.

Once the flag is folded the stars are showing, symbolic of our national motto, “In God We Trust.”

As the flag is folded, the red and white stripes are wrapped into the blue field of white stars, representing the light of day vanishing into the darkness of night.

Folding the flag, say members of the Silver Talon Honor Guard at Vance Air Force Base, is not one of the most difficult skills they must master.

“We actually have two new airmen on our flight and we’ve been training them on flag folds, and they’ve picked it up right away,” said Airman 1st Class Christina Sullivan, a member of the Silver Talons. “It usually takes a couple of times, but it is important for people to know.”

A flag rests on a casket sitting in the middle of the Silver Talons’ practice room.

“This flag is the practice flag, so of course it’s going to fold how you want it,” she said. “It’s a lot different when you go to a funeral and they have the flag there, a different flag of different material, they’re a lot more stiff.”

As with other honor guard duties, Sullivan said, flexibility is the key to proper flag folding.

“We try to teach everyone, ‘If this happens and you’re folding the flag and you know it’s going to turn out like this, this is how you can do this,’” she said.

Folding the flag properly, said Senior Airman Devin Courtney, also a Silver Talons member, is a matter of technique.

“Once you get the technique down, you’re good to go,” he said.

The capricious and lively Oklahoma wind often makes flag folding challenging, said Courtney, as does the honor guard’s formal attire.

“We also wear gloves, which doesn’t help at all,” he said. “It’s pretty slippery. That’s one of the things we have to be prepared for, just keep a tight grip on it, don’t drop it.”

“And make sure you don’t fold your gloves in the flag,” said Sullivan.