A Badly folded flag
All across America folded American, state, territorial and tribal flags are presented to the next of kin (NOK) of fallen military and first responder veterans. Unfortunately, some of these flags are poorly folded and still handed off. I’ve witnessed a folded flag in the hands of a first responder who was sincerely trying to cover the large swath of red stripe by trying to jam the end of the flag into itself. It didn’t work and the family sat there waiting. Obviously, adequate training is necessary, but when training is not accomplished, issues arise that then need to be taken care of on the spot or immediately afterwards.
The picture at right shows the folded flag from the funeral of the last Seminole Code Talker, Private First Class and Congressional Gold Medal recipient Edmond Andrew Harjo. This should never have happened. This flag needs to be refolded.
What to do?
As I stated, training is paramount, but let’s say training is accomplished for a couple of hours the day before the funeral and the folders don’t catch the last fold that goes too far toward the edge, barely leaving enough to tuck. While it would have been best to back out the last triangle fold and then tuck from there, if the tuck has already started, do your best and refold the flag after the ceremony.
On a side note: When I was training firefighters in the south in 2013, during one of the training sessions, the trainees actually had an Army veteran and firefighter retiree funeral to attend. The firefighters moved the casket and the veteran’s groups folded the flag and also fired the 3-Volley Salute. Regrettably, not only was the flag folded poorly, but it was also presented inside a plastic flag case to the widow. The flag should never have been cased before presenting it to the widow and my honor guard trainees could tell the flag was poorly folded and here is what we did.
One of my trainees, an honor guard member, went to the firefighter who was the family liaison and requested the flag at the widow’s earliest convenience for refolding. Before we knew it the liaison had discreetly asked for, retrieved and presented the flag to my trainee who handed it to me. Since we had not gone into pall bearers and flag folding in the course yet, I used the opportunity to begin teaching how to fold the flag. We went behind the small building where the service was held, which was completely out of the family’s and even the public’s view, unfolded the flag when we discovered three shells from the firing party that had been tucked into the flag (this is a no=no! The flag is not to be used a receptacle!), refolded the flag and handed the flag and shells back to the family. We would have handed them to the liaison, but the family was more than appreciative of what we had accomplished for them.
How to fold our National Ensign
There are a few flag fold videos on YouTube, but the ones for the two-man fold are all severely lacking- one even shows the flag being folded backwards- and that’s a flag company’s video.
How to fold the American flag with two people
How to fold the American flag with six people
Handing off a folded flag
Point- or flat side-first? Just like holding a folded flag, there is no “correct” way. While the military services have handed the flag to the NOK using both methods, I have some guidance that may be of help. Many times the family is in much grief and the NOK who receives that folded flag will hold on to it for dear life. It is easier to hold when the long flat end is at the abdomen.
honor guard, pall bearers, flag fold, american flag