American Legion discusses flag-draped coffin as funeral ceremonies for late Sen. Dole continue

FILE - Former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, rests her head on the casket of her husband, former Sen. Bob...
FILE - Former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, rests her head on the casket of her husband, former Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, as he lies in state in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021 in Washington. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)(Jabin Botsford | AP)
Published: Dec. 9, 2021 at 5:25 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - As an American flag lays draped over late Senator Bob Dole’s coffin, the American Legion has discussed the significance of the act and the meaning of its folds when it is handed to his next of kin.

The American Legion says flags have been draped over military veterans’ coffins since the late 1700s and the custom is rich with tradition and requires certain protocol.

The Legion said flags draped over coffins honor the memory of members of the U.S. military. It said most veterans and active-service members qualify for flag-draped coffins at their funerals.

The Department of Veterans Affairs said veterans with dishonorable discharges are not eligible for an official burial flag.

The Legion said burial flags should never touch the ground, and when they are draped over a coffin, should never be lowered into a grave. It said the flag will be removed from the coffin and folded into a triangle with only the blue portion showing.

After it is folded, the Maine Military Funerals Honor Program said the flag is given to the deceased’s next of kin, friend, or specified associate. It said qualified veterans only get one burial flag, so only one person will get the folded flag.

To understand with the flag-draped coffin means, the Legion said residents should know what every fold means. While many think it is folded 13 times for the number of colonies, it said this is incorrect. The meanings of the folds are as follows:

  • 1 - The symbol of life
  • 2 - A symbol of the belief in eternal life
  • 3 - Made in honor of the veterans departing the ranks who gave parts of their lives for the defense of the nation
  • 4 - Represents the weaker nature, for many turn to God for guidance
  • 5 - A tribute to the country
  • 6 - For where the hearts of the people lie
  • 7 - A tribute to the Armed Forces
  • 8 - A tribute to the deceased
  • 9 - A tribute to womanhood and mothers
  • 10 - A tribute to the father
  • 11 - Represents the lower part of the seal of King David and King Solomon
  • 12 - An emblem of eternity
  • 13 - When the flag is completely folded the stars are visible at the top reminding of the nation’s motto

After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, the Legion said it looks like a cocked hat as a reminder of the soldiers who served under General George Washington and the Sailors and Marines who served under Capt. John Paul Jones.

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