Thirteen Folds

Recently, I have been wondering why a small portion of humanity is so determined to destroy the fabric of the whole. Confused because who are we if we do not love our kids, our family, our community, our fellow citizens? Who are we without our faith?

How you measure and what you think is important is highly personal. But we all intersect in some spaces, and the respect and reverence we have for differences is critical to our sense of humanity. For it is in this second space, one of dissonance, that we remove ourselves from the center of the universe and truly are finding harmony in one song.

That certain social media platform offered the seeds of this post when I was reminded to wish someone a happy birthday. He was a fine young man, from a beautiful family, whom I had the pleasure and honor to coach for many years. He passed while serving this country and out of respect I withhold his name and his father’s name who also appeared on my social media radar—coincidentally (Hmm). This gentleman offered a brilliant post regarding the meaning of the ritual folding of the American Flag that was passed to the family following the death of their child. These friends, father and mother, received a flag, thirteen folds to honor their son’s passing.

US folded flag

I have seen the flag folded and handed solemnly to mourning families. I didn’t know that beyond the ritual there is meaning in each of the folds. The American Legion ( describes the symbols for each fold:

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 veteran departing our ranks, and who gave a portion of his or her life for the defense of our country to attain peace throughout the world.

The fourth fold represents our weaker nature; as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn 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 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 our 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 he or she was first born.

The 11th fold, in the eyes of Hebrew citizens, 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 12th 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 (13th), the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, “In God We Trust.”

After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it has the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under Gen. George Washington and the sailors and Marines who served under Capt. John Paul Jones and were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the U.S. Armed Forces, preserving for us the rights, privileges and freedoms we enjoy today.

On the day we celebrate independence, I celebrate your birth and the time we spent. May you rest in peace knowing you protected ours, were loved, and made a difference…

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About Dr. John Panepinto

Direction. Execution. Evolution. Each day can be an expression of living with purpose and focusing on what matters most. My sites share this theme of vision, living in our most important roles and responsibilities from imagination and creativity in a simple, practical way. I am committed to educating and serving, founded in principles of development, that people can use and practice in their every day lives.