By Lt. Aaron Yderraga, AA/Public Information Officer
California Correctional Center
In honor of Memorial Day, the California Correctional Center’s (CCC) Veterans in Prison group recently conducted a flag-folding ceremony.
The ceremony, which was attended by members of the public and CCC’s management team, consisted of an introduction and opening prayer. Next the group conducted a POW/MIA Table Setting Remembrance Service (Fallen Comrade Table) in memory of the nation’s fallen, missing or imprisoned military service-members.
Afterword, the group slowly folded the flag while reciting its meaning and the significance of each of the 13 folds. The ceremony concluded with the flag being presented to Warden Suzanne Peery followed by the playing of Taps. The affair was well represented and left the attendees with a new appreciation for the men and women who have sacrificed so much for their country.
Why 13 folds?
While the original folding of the flag held no special significance, over time, significance has been placed on each fold. According to traditional flag etiquette, “before an American flag is stored or presented, its handlers should twice fold it in half lengthwise; then (from the end opposite the blue field) make a triangular fold, continuing to fold it in triangles until the other end is reached. This makes a triangular ‘pillow’ of the flag with only the blue starred field showing on the outside, and it takes 13 folds to produce: two lengthwise folds and 11 triangular folds.”
Rumor holds the 13 folds originated in the U.S. Air Force, which isn’t true. “Though there are no official ceremonies in the Air Force that require a script to be read when a flag is folded, unofficial ceremonies such as retirements often do, said Lt. Col. Samuel Hudspath, Air Force protocol chief.”
The most common meaning used today for the 13 folds:
- The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.
- The second fold is a symbol of our belief in the 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 peace throughout the world.
- The fourth fold represents our weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn to 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 into 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 10th 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 11th 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 12fth 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 reading.)
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 today.