why the american flag is folded 13 times
The American flag is one of the most important symbols of the United States. P For many, it symbolizes respect, honor, and freedom. P For others, the flag represents reflection, courage and sorrow. P The National Air and Space Museum cares for a number of American flags in the Smithsonian Institutions national collection, many of which represent significant events in the history of space exploration or aeronautics. One belonged to. P One was flown aboard
by NASA astronauts James McDivitt and Edward H. White in 1965. P And the Museum has several replicas of the flag that was left on the Moon during the lunar landing in 1969. P Although each flag has a story that is worth telling, the care and preservation of these unique objects is also noteworthy. Even though Museum staff are trained to handle cultural objects, sometimes an object requires special attention. With the upcoming installation of new displays in the Moving Beyond Earth gallery highlighting the history of the space shuttle program, a very special flag was chosen for display. P This particular flag was flown over the U. S. Capitol on February 1, 2003 as a tribute to the crew of STS-107, who died when the space shuttle Columbia was lost during re-entry at the end of its mission. P It was donated to the Museum by Dennis Hastert, then Speaker of the House of Representatives, to honor the astronauts. When it was decided to display the flag in the new gallery, the conservation staff unfolded the flag from its original box so that it could be examined, photographed, and cleaned. The curatorial team agreed that the flag should be folded in the traditional, triangular pattern before putting it on display.
Because the flag represents an American tragedy of significant proportion and out of respect for the proper treatment of the artifact, the Museum invited a member of the military to assist with folding the flag. P Army Major Warren R. Stump, who recently returned from Afghanistan, assisted the conservation staff. Major Stump, with assistance from Stephanie Spence and Dawn Planas (conservation contractors for the Moving Beyond Earth gallery ) folded the flag, while I (Lisa Young) read an explanation of the meaning behind each of the thirteen folds in a properly-folded American flag. The flag is folded to represent the original thirteen colonies of the United States. P Each fold also carries its own meaning. P According to the description, some folds symbolize freedom, life, or pay tribute to mothers, fathers, and those who serve in the Armed Forces. P When the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, representing the soldiers who served under George Washington, the sailors and marines who served under John Paul Jones, and the many who have followed in their footsteps. Now folded into the traditional triangle shape, the STS-107 Capitol-flown flag will be displayed in the Moving Beyond Earth gallery. The flag will serve as a reminder of the heroes who flew aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia, and who paved the way for further space exploration. P It will also serve as a reminder to Museum staff about how special objects take on new meaning as they are interpreted for public display.
P We are grateful to Major Stump for helping the Museum to pay full respect to this significant artifact. Have you ever noticed on TV or at military funerals that the honor guard pays meticulous attention to correctly folding the American flag 13 times? I ve known how the 21 gun salute was determined (adding the individual digits of 1776), but only recently learned why the flag was folded 13 times when it is lowered or when it is folded and handed to the widow at the burial of a veteran. HERE IT IS: The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life. The second fold is a symbol of our belief in eternal life. The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing our ranks who gave a portion of their lives 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 in times of peace as well as in time 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, their love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great has been molded. The tenth fold is a tribute to the father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since they were first born. The eleventh 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 twelfth 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 Spirit. When the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost reminding us of our nation s motto, In God We Trust. 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. There are some traditions and ways of doing things which have deep meaning. You will see many flags folded in the coming weeks, and now you will know why.
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