Proper flag etiquette

Veterans demonstrate how to show respect for country’s symbol

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Tom Dorsey, a U.S. Army veteran and a member of the American Legion, demonstrates the triangular folds of a folded American flag.

To every American, the U.S. flag, “Old Glory,” means something a little different.

To some, it symbolizes the victory for liberty from a tyrannical monarch.

To some, it symbolizes the sacrifice and bravery of millions of American men and women who have served in the United States armed forces over the past three centuries.

The list goes on.

“The flag was raised at Fort McHenry when the British were attacking and it was a symbol of our freedom and without that flag, there would be no symbol, there would be no rallying cry,” said Roger Simonson, a U.S. Army veteran and member of the Disabled American Veterans organization.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Veterans Tom Dorsey, Ron Arends and Roger Simonson demonstrate the proper folding technique to fold the American flag. There should be 13 folds in the flag once it is done and resembles a three-pointed hat.

When Simonson sees the flag, he feels gratitude.

“I’m just thankful that we’re the country that we are and that people put themselves in harm’s way to protect our country from enemies,” he said.

Regardless of what the flag means to an individual, local Army veteran Tom Dorsey appreciates respect for the flag.

As a member of the local American Legion, Dorsey has instructional books with information on how to properly present, care for, retire and dispose of a flag.

“We are open to meetings if someone is wanting to learn about it,” he said.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Roger Simonson, a U.S. Army veteran and a member of Disabled American Veterans organization, places a worn and tattered American flag in the flag “mailbox” outside the VFW Post, 518 S. 29th St. Retired flags can be placed in this box and will be propertly disposed of through a flag burning ceremony.

When properly folding a U.S. flag, start by folding the flag lengthwise once, and then lengthwise a second time, keeping the blue field of stars on the outward side.

Starting at the striped end, bring the corner of the folded edge to the open edge in a triangular fold. Then, the outer point should be turned inward parallel with the open edge to form a second triangle. The triangular folds continue until it has reached the end of the blue field and the folded flag resembles a three-corner hat.

When a flag is taken down from its staff – either for storage or for retirement – the 13 folds made to properly tuck the flag into its triangular shape each have a meaning as well.

The first fold is a symbol of life. The third fold honors veterans who have served under the flag. The fifth, a tribute to the country.

The origin of the flag-folding procedure and the meanings behind each fold is unknown, according to the American Legion.

U.S. Navy veteran Ron Arends, a member of the VFW Post 1856, urges proper disposal of worn and tattered flags.

“If it’s ragged or torn, dispose of it,” he said. “We’ve got a disposal box right out here and we’ve got somebody that takes and burns them in a little ceremony.”

The VFW’s flag disposal box is located at 518 S. 29th St.

Arends also said that although it is a myth that a flag must be destroyed if it touches the ground, flags should still be kept off the ground.

Flag Day is annually observed on June 14, the anniversary of the adoption of the United States flag by the Second Continental Congress in 1777.

Though there are no local Flag Day events, it can be a time for many to reflect on what the flag means to them.

“To me, it represents the veterans that have served this country,” Dorsey said.

“All the sacrifices people made to keep our country free, that’s what it means to me,” Simonson added. “All the brave people that stormed up Omaha Beach and walked in front of all those machine guns, that took a lot of courage.”


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today