The flag folding ceremony described by the Uniformed Services is a dramatic and uplifting way to honor the flag on special days, like Memorial Day or Veterans Day, and is sometimes used at retirement ceremonies.
Here is a typical sequence of the reading:
(Begin reading as Honor Guard or Flag Detail is coming forward).
The flag folding ceremony represents the same religious principles on which our country was originally founded. The portion of the flag denoting honor is the canton of blue containing the stars representing the states our veterans served in uniform. The canton field of blue dresses from left to right and is inverted when draped as a pall on a casket of a veteran who has served our country in uniform.
In the Armed Forces of the United States, 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.
(Wait for the Honor Guard or Flag Detail to unravel and fold the flag into a quarter fold--resume reading when Honor Guard is standing ready.)
The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.
The second fold is a symbol of our belief in the eternal life.
The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veteran departing our ranks who gave a portion of life for the defense of our country to attain a peace throughout the world.
The fourth fold represents our weaker nature, for 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 her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our republic.
The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered in to the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor 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 tenth fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since they were first born.
The eleventh fold, in the eyes of a Hebrew citizen, 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 twelfth 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."
(Wait for the Honor Guard or Flag Detail to inspect the flag--after the inspection, resume reading.)
After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington and the sailors and marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States, preserving for us the rights, privileges, and freedoms we enjoy today.
Unfolded Flag Ceremony – short version
Five girls line up in front of the audience, side by side (about 3-4 inches apart). We suggest that you practice the ceremony ahead of time so girls will know how far apart they should stand and how many times they should unfold the flag. For younger girls, you may want the flag to be laying on a table as the girls unfold it. Cue cards with the speaking part written on them could also be taped to the table. Make it easy for the girls so they will be comfortable and not worry about forgetting their lines.
The first girl on the right holds a correctly folded United States flag. She says: "I hold in my hands a folded flag -- a piece of cloth -- for presentation." The first girl holds onto the grommet edge of the flag and begins to unfold the flag slowly, passing the rest of the folded flag to the next girl in line.
The second girl holds on to her section of the flag (only the blue union with the stars with the stars should be showing) while she says: "I bring to this piece of cloth the color blue. Blue is the color of the sky and the oceans, whose mysteries remind us of a law that goes beyond the law of Man. Blue symbolizes JUSTICE." The second girl continues to unfold the flag, passing the remaining folded portion to the third girl (the first and second girls continue to hold their portion of the flag).
The third girl unfolds the flag until the stripes become visible. She says: I bring to this piece of cloth the color white. White is the color of freshly fallen snow. White is the color of bridal gowns. White is the color of angel's robes. White symbolizes PURITY." The third girl passes the folded portion of the flag to the fourth girl.
She unfolds several folds and says: I bring to this cloth the color red. Red is the color of the blood of Americans who died for their country. Red symbolizes VALOR". The fourth girl passes the folded portion of the flag of the fifth girl.
The fifth girl will finish unfolding the flag and say: "I hold in my hands, not a mere piece of cloth, but a symbol of VALOR, PURITY and JUSTICE."
All girls should take hold to the top of the flag and raise it so the lengthwise folds will fall open displaying the American flag. All the girls say together: We hold in our hands the flag of the United States of America! Please join in the Pledge of Allegiance."
Candle Lighting Flag Ceremony
This is a fun flag ceremony if you are looking for something a little different. There should be decorated table in front of the room with 4 candles on it; one red candle; one white candle, one blue candle and the final large candle with stars glued on it. You will need 5 girls for the speaking parts of the ceremony and at least 4 others, 3 to carry the flag and a Caller.
Begin the ceremony with the first 5 girls standing at the table. The first girl will begin and end the speaking part of the ceremony but WILL NOT light a candle. Each of the other girls will say her part and then light her candle. After they finish the first part of the ceremony, the Caller will begin the flag ceremony.
1st girl: Today, as we gather, let us all keep in mind, One flag and the meaning therein we can find
2nd girl: The red is for the blood of Americans true, Who gladly would give up their lives for you.
(light the red candle)
3rd girl: The white is for purity, in both thought and deed, a rule of conduct, we will might well heed.
(light the white candle)
4th girl: The blue is for justice, for all, not one, a tenet we fought for and so dearly won.
(light the blue candle)
5th girl: The stars are a symbol of God's guiding hand over the union of this mighty land.
(light the candle with stars)
1st girl: There isn't a one our flag won't protect. One and all, we owe it great respect.
The CALLER immediately gives the following commands:
"GIRL SCOUTS AND GUESTS ATTENTIONS"
(all should stand)
"COLOR GUARD ATTENTION"
"COLOR GUARD ADVANCE"
(the Color Guard will advance to the front so the flag is in full view of the audience. Make sure they are in front of the table also).
"PLEASE JOIN IN THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE"
(the Color Guard does not participate).
"COLOR GUARD DISMISSED"
(the Color Guard will take the flag from the viewing area).