Thesoldiersproject is supported by its audience. When you buy through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

How to Fold a Military Flag Properly in 7 Easy Steps

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

how to fold a military flag

The U.S flag is a very important symbol of freedom and pride for all Americans. It has a meaningful role in many ceremonies, like burials and funerals. It is a custom in the U.S Army and Navy to lower the flag at the last note of retreat every day and fold it.

In addition, casket flag folding is a ceremonial tribute to a veteran and his or her family. In any case, the flag is folded 13 times into a tri-cornered shape. You can learn more about how to fold a military flag in this article. Read on!

7 Steps to Fold a Military Flag Properly


As mentioned, proper military flag folding includes 13 folds. The final result is a shape that resembles the tri-cornered hat of the Patriots from the American Revolution.

You cannot fold a flag by yourself. There needs to be at least one other person folding with you. Most flag folding ceremonies will have 6-8 “folders”.

What You Will Need to Do

The proper way to fold the flag is as follows:

  • Step 1: Start by holding the flag at waist height with another person and stretch it out. The flag, at this step, should be parallel to the floor.
  • Step 2: Next, fold the bottom half of the section with stripes lengthwise. As such, the stripes will fold over and cover the field of stars. Make sure that both “folders” are holding the top and bottom edges securely.
  • Step 3: Then, fold the flag lengthwise once more. The blue field of the flag should now be on the outside.
  • Step 4: Bring the stripes corner from the folded edge to the top open edge of the flag to make a triangular fold.
  • Step 5: Now, form the second triangle by turning the outer end point inward and parallel to the open edge.
  • Step 6: Continue to make the triangle folds all the way until the end of the flag’s entire length.
  • Step 7: Check that the completely folded flag showcases the blue field of stars. The red and white parts of the flag should be wrapped into the blue, like the light of day vanishing into the night’s darkness.

The general flag presentation protocol involves the flag recipient and flag holder. The latter holds the folded flag at waist height and positions the straight edge to face the former. Then, the flag is leaned towards the recipient and solemnly presented.

Note: There will usually also be an accompanying verbiage and/or flag reading script.

8 Steps to Fold a Military Flag for a Memorial Display Case


This next section will show you how to fold the American flag to fit it into a memorial display case.

What You Will Need to Do:

  • Step 1: Lay the flag down on a flat surface.
  • Step 2: Fold the flag in half with the stars facing down and the stripes facing up.
  • Step 3: Fold the flag again so that the flag is quartered. Make sure to line the flag up neatly.
  • Step 4: At the fly end, make a triangle by folding it into the open side of the flag.
  • Step 5: Then, fold the triangle straight up and continue doing so until you reach the end of the flag’s length. Be sure to tighten each fold.
  • Step 6: At the end, the visible stars should line straight. If they are not, make the necessary adjustments.
  • Step 7: Fit the flag into the memorial case. Do a trial fit first. If it looks good behind the glass, work the final bits in for enclosing. The flag should fit snugly. To complete, check that the stars are not crooked. If they are, take the flag out from the case to fix it. This step involves a lot of trial and error, so be patient.
  • Step 8: Once the flag is fixed properly in the case, hand the case up for display. Most cases should have a mounting or hanging accessory at the back.

For visual guidance, watch this tutorial on Youtube.

The Meanings of Each of the 13 Folds in Proper Flag Folding Protocol

Aside from the above steps to fold an American flag, you should be aware of the meanings behind each of the 13 folds. This next section is dedicated to outlining that.

  • The 1st Fold: This fold is a symbol of life.
  • The 2nd Fold: This fold is a symbol of belief in eternal life.
  • The 3rd Fold: This fold is a symbol to honor and remember the veterans departing ranks that dedicated a portion of his or her life for the defense of the country and achieving peace throughout the world.
  • The 4th Fold: This fold is a symbol of the weaker nature as Americans trust in God. It is Him we turn to for divine guidance in both peacetime and wartime.
  • The 5th Fold; This fold is a symbol of tribute to the country
  • The 6th Fold: This fold is a symbol of where the American hearts lie. Since it is with the heart that the people pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, an indivisible country under God with liberty and justice for all.
  • The 7th Fold: This fold is a symbol and a tribute to the country’s Armed Forces. It is thanks to the Armed Forces that we protect the country and the flag against all enemies, whether they are within or beyond the republic’s boundaries.
  • The 8th Fold: This fold is a symbol and a tribute to those who have entered the valley of the shadow of death so we can see the light of day and honor the mothers, for whom the flag flies on Mother’s Day.
  • The 9th Fold: This fold is a symbol and a tribute to womanhood. The faith, love, loyalty, and devotion womanhood offers have molded the character of the men and women of this great country.
  • The 10th Fold: This fold is a symbol and a tribute to the fathers who have also given their sons and daughters for the country’s defense since he or she was born.
  • The 11th Fold: This fold is a symbol of the bottom part of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  • The 12th Fold: This fold symbolizes eternity and glorifies God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost.
  • The 13th Fold: This is when the flag is completely folded, showing the stars are uppermost. It is a reminder of the national motto, “In God We Trust.”

As you can see, the flag folds represent the same religious principles that the U.S was founded on. Some sources also say that the 13 folds refer to the first 13 colonies prior to Independence: Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia.

The origin and date of the source for the flag folding procedure is unclear. Some credit an Air Force chaplain at the U.S Air Force Academy, while others believe it was the Gold Star Mothers of America.

Military Flag Folding in the U.s Army & Navy

At the last retreat ceremony, the national flag is lowered, folded into a triangle, and kept under close watch through the night. This procedure is a tribute to the nation’s honored deceased. The next day, it is taken out and flown again at the ceremony of reveille to symbolize the resurrection of the body.

Military Flag Folding on a Veteran’s Casket

The field of blue dresses from left to right and is inverted over the casket. This is a token to thank the deceased veteran who has served the country honorably.

Traditional honors of grave site military funerals often proceed with a silent flag folding and presentation, three rifle volleys, and a performance of “Taps”.


Knowing how to fold a military flag is important even if there are not a lot of personal occasions for you to do it. You also know other relevant information about the associated meanings of folding a flag, which may come in handy later in life.

Who knows, maybe you will be able to boast about knowing what the 13 folds in flag protocol are. Plus, you can better appreciate and respect the flag and what it stands for. Also, do not hesitate to leave comments or share this article with other readers!

5/5 - (2 votes)