There is no clear cut, substantiated source for the meaning of each fold of the flag when it is taken from its full length to the triangular shape with the stars displayed. There is a general consensus, however; so although we do not know its beginning, all agree on the basic meaning of the folding. One of the folds hits home with me more than the others. But first…the folds themselves.
The Meaning Behind the Folds
The first and second folds represent life, both physical and eternal, respectively.
The third fold is in honor and remembrance of the veteran 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 seeking divine guidance during peace and war.
The fifth and sixth folds pay tribute to our country, right or wrong, and represents the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag and the United States of America itself.
The seventh fold is a tribute to all our armed forces.
The eighth and ninth folds honor mothers and womanhood.
The tenth fold is a tribute to fathers.
The eleventh fold honors Hebrew citizens, respecting the lower portion of King David and King Solomon’s seal.
The twelfth fold honors Christian citizens, glorifying God the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost.
When the flag is completely folded, the stars are visible. The triangular shape is reminiscent of the cocked hat of General George Washington, who began the first fight to preserve the rights, privileges and freedoms we seek to live.
The Third Fold of the Flag
“…in honor and remembrance of the veteran who gave a portion of his or her life for the defense of our country…”
Some veterans give their life and become a fatality of war. Others give limbs or eyesight, or part of their brain (traumatic brain injury) or an internal organ. But many give something else…their sanity.
The first time I heard a veteran answer the question, “How’s so-and-so doin’?” with a, “He’s still in country,” I wondered why the inquiring veteran looked so sad. After all, what could be bad about being in the country among the green spaces, flowers and living creatures? I was soon to learn that “in country” was not a good thing. It had nothing to do with being somewhere physically, or the bounty of nature. It had everything to do with hell. A mental and emotional hell that often seems to have no exits. So when I overheard a USS Indianapolis survivor ask how so and so was doing, and the answer was, “Every night…he’s back in the water,” nobody had to tell me the hell that veteran was going through, and I was profoundly sad.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), is a psychiatric disorder that in some people will have stress reactions that do not go away on their own, or may even get worse over time. These sufferers relive the experience through nightmares and flashbacks, do not feel safe enough to sleep well, and feel detached or estranged from family and friends. The symptoms can be severe enough and last long enough to significantly impair the person’s daily life.
It is logical to assume that no steadfast statistics can be had on combat veterans who suffer from PTSD. Not all sufferers recognize it for what it is. And many, if they do, don’t report it. Three years ago it was estimated that nearly 30% of VA patients suffer from combat-related PTSD. Oversimplified, if you gather three combat veterans in a room at one time, one is suffering hell. You won’t know which one it is, it surpassed gender, physical attributes, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation. PTSD is a non-discriminating beast.
There are many good websites from reputable organizations that go more into detail about this disorder, the symptoms and the resources to help cope. Make the Connection at http://maketheconnection.net, is maintained by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It provides personal testimonials and resources to help veterans increase the quality of their lives. It’s the least our government can do for these noble group of warriors. I’m proud it’s trying. Not so many years ago, the VA wouldn’t admit PTSD existed, or that war was bad for your peace of mind. It turned its back on many of our combat veterans. But the VA’s eyes are opening, and they are responding, and that means hope…for all our veterans.
If you or someone you know display symptoms of PTSD, please reach out for help. We who you swore to protect, and the country to which you gave your all, want you healthy and happy. Do not think of it as a weakness to ask for help…think of it as our turn to serve you.
To all veterans…on this Flag Day, 2015, as I see flags flying everywhere, I know why they do…because they can, thanks to you.
Thank you for your service. May your God bless you and keep you safe.