The traditional method of folding the flag is as follows:
(A) Straighten out the flag to full length and fold lengthwise once.
(B) Fold it lengthwise a second time to meet the open edge, making sure that the union of stars on the blue field remains outward in full view. (A large flag may have to be folded lengthwise a third time.)
(C) A triangular fold is then started by bringing the striped corner of the folded edge to the open edge.
(D) The outer point is then turned inward, parallel with the open edge, to form a second triangle.
(E) The diagonal or triangular folding is continued toward the blue union until the end is reached, with only the blue showing and the form being that of a cocked (three-corner) hat.
Meaning of Flag-Folding Program
The flag-folding ceremony represents the same religious principles on which our great country was originally founded.
The portion of the flag denoting honor is the canton of blue containing the stars representing states our veterans served in uniform. The canton field of blue dresses from left to right and is inverted only when draped as a pall on the casket of a veteran who has served our country honorably in uniform.
In the U.S. Armed Forces, at the ceremony of retreat, the flag is lowered, folded in a triangle fold and kept under watch throughout the night as a tribute to our nation’s honored dead. The next morning it is brought out and, at the ceremony of reveille, run aloft as a symbol of our belief in the resurrection of the body.
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.
The source and the date of origin of this Flag Folding Procedure is unknown, however some sources attribute it to the Gold Star Mothers of America while others to an Air Force chaplain stationed at the United States Air Force Academy. Others consider it to be an urban legend. It is provided as a patriotic service to all.
Here is a website that may help you choose an appropriate script when folding the flag. Flag-Folding Ceremony (ushistory.org)
VA Clarifies Policy on Flag-Folding Recitations “13-Fold” Ceremony, Other Scripts Approved
To ensure burial services at the 125 national cemeteries operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs reflect the wishes of veterans and their families, VA officials have clarified the department’s policy about recitations made while the U.S. flag is folded at the grave site of a veteran.
“Honoring the burial wishes of veterans is one of the highest commitments for the men and women of VA,” said William F. Tuerk, VA’s under secretary for Memorial Affairs. “A family may request the recitation of words to accompany the meaningful presentation of the American flag as we honor the dedication and sacrifice of their loved ones.”
Traditional grave site military funeral honors include the silent folding and presentation of a U.S. flag, three rifle volleys and the playing of “Taps.”
The clarification includes the following:
Volunteer honor guards are authorized to read the 13-fold flag recitation or any comparable script;
Survivors of the deceased need to provide material and request it be read by the volunteer honor guards; and
Volunteer honor guards will accept requests for recitations that reflect any or no religious traditions, on an equal basis.
Veterans with a discharge other than dishonorable, their spouses and eligible dependent children can be buried in a national cemetery.
Other burial benefits available for all eligible veterans, regardless of whether they are buried in a national cemetery or a private cemetery, include a burial flag, a Presidential Memorial Certificate, and a government headstone or marker.