President Elect Trump and V.P Elect Pence laid a wreath at Arlington Cemetery the day before his inauguration as the 45th President of the United States. Many flags have been flown and folded at Arlington Cemetery. These flags have been tenderly laid in the hands of those who have lost their loved ones who have served in the nation’s military. It is the highest honor to have served and to be buried in this sacred spot. How much do you know about this special place and the meanings behind the folding of our American flag? We will now share this with you. Pass it on to the young people that you know about the honor and beauty that our flag represents.
What is the history of Arlington Cemetery?
“Arlington National Cemetery is comprised of land that once belonged to George Washington Parke Custis, grandson of Martha Washington and step-grandson of George Washington. Custis spent his life commemorating Washington and built Arlington House on the 1,100-acre plantation as a memorial to the first president. In 1857, Custis willed the property to his daughter Mary Anna Randolph Custis, who in 1831 had married U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Robert E. Lee.
After the Lee family vacated the property at the onset of the Civil War in 1861, federal troops used the land as a camp and headquarters – beginning on May 24, 1861. Throughout the war, three forts were constructed on the grounds as part of the overall defenses of Washington, D.C. In 1863, the government established Freedman’s Village on the estate as a way to assist slaves transitioning to freedom. The village provided housing, education, employment training, and medical care. A property tax dispute, amounting to just over $92.07 cost the Lee family their home and in January 1864, the U.S. government purchased the property for $26,800 at public auction. After Mary Lee’s death, her son, George Washington Custis Lee sued in 1882 for the return of the property, winning his case in front of the Supreme Court of the United States. Lee then sold the property, which by this time contained the graves of over 6,000 Union soldiers, to the federal government for $150,000.
By the third year of the Civil War, the increasing number of fatalities was outpacing the burial capacity of Washington, D.C. cemeteries. To meet this demand, 200 acres of Arlington plantation was set aside as a military cemetery. The first military burial took place on May 13, 1864, for Private William Christman of Pennsylvania. On June 15, the War Department officially designated this burial space a national cemetery, thus creating Arlington National Cemetery. By the end of the war, burials included thousands of service members as well as African-American Freedmen.” (Arlington Cemetery website)
What is the meaning behind the folding of the American flag?
Desecration in any form of the American flag is a despicable act because of all that it means to the freedom we share. The men and women who died throughout history are wrapped and draped at least symbolically in this flag. The families who carefully preserve the flag given to them by a GRATEFUL NATION hold this flag in great esteem.
The folding of the American flag has a symbol or meaning for each fold. They are the following:
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, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, “In God We Trust.”
Presentation of the folded flag to the Family
How to present:
Stand facing the flag recipient and hold the folded flag waist-high with the straight edge facing the recipient.
- Kneel, on one knee, in front of the flag recipient and solemnly present the flag to the recipient.
- Present the flag using the veteran’s military service preferred wording…a Grateful Nation:
- Army … This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service. (Note: President of the United States isn’t an official reference in the Army flag presentation.)
- Marine Corps … On behalf of the President of the United States, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s service to Country and Corps.
- Navy ... On behalf of the President of the United States and the Chief of Naval Operations, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s service to this Country and a grateful Navy.
- Air Force … On behalf of the President of the United States, the Department of the Air Force, and a grateful nation, we offer this flag for the faithful and dedicated service of [Service member’s rank and name]. (NOTE: If the next of kin has expressed a religious preference or belief, add: “God bless you and this family, and God bless the United States of America.”)
- Coast Guard … On behalf of the President of the United States, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s service to Country and the Coast Guard.
(Provided by Military Funeral Honors / U.S. Defense Department)
In 1916, the president of the United States issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day; in August 1949, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress. For those of us who honor our country and the flag, any day is a good day to fly the American flag.