A United States flag drapes the casket of deceased veterans to honor the memory of their service to the country.
The ceremonial folding and presentation of the flag is a moving tribute of lasting import to the veteran's family.
This custom began during the Napoleonic Wars (1796-1815). The dead were covered with flags and carried from the field of battle on a caisson. When the U.S. flag covers the casket, it is placed so the union blue field is at the head and over the left shoulder. It is not placed in the grave and is not allowed to touch the ground.
The U.S. flag is carefully removed from the coffin and solemnly folded by members of the honor guard team. When completely folded, the flag forms a triangle, which is representative of the tri-cornered hats worn by colonial soldiers during the Revolutionary War.
The procedure involves 13 folds, representing the original colonies. When all the folds have been made, no red or white stripes are visible, leaving only the honor field of blue and stars.
It is then presented as a keepsake to the next of kin or an appropriate family member.
NOTE: Flags are provided for burial services of service members and veterans. The flag for one who dies on active duty is provided by one's branch of service. Flags for other veterans are provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.