By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Aug. 18, 2005) -- Air Force leaders recently approved a new script that can be read during flag-folding ceremonies.
Though there are no official ceremonies in the Air Force that require a script to be read when a flag is folded, unofficial ceremonies such as retirements often do, said Lt. Col. Samuel Hudspath, Air Force protocol chief.
"We have had a tradition within the Air Force of individuals requesting that a flag be folded, with words, at their retirement ceremony," he said. "This new script was prepared by Air Force services to provide Air Force recognized words to be used at those times."
There is no shortage of scripts available that can be read aloud during a flag folding, but many of those scripts are religious in nature and also ascribe meaning to the individual folds put into the flag. One of the oldest of those scripts is attributed to an anonymous chaplain at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Individuals who hear those scripts end up attributing the contents of the script to the U.S. Air Force. But the reality is that neither Congress, nor federal laws related to the flag, assign any special meaning to the individual folds. Colonel Hudspath said that was the primary motive for creating a new flag-folding script.
"Our intent was to move away from giving meaning, or appearing to give meaning, to the folds of the flag and to just speak to the importance of the flag in U.S. Air Force history," he said.
The new script, approved in July, focuses on flag history and the significance of the flag within the Air Force: "Today, our flag flies on constellations of Air Force satellites that circle our globe, and on the fin flash of our aircraft in harms way in every corner of the world. Indeed, it flies in the heart of every Airman who serves our great nation. The sun never sets on our Air Force, nor on the flag we so proudly cherish," the new script reads.
The new script is available at base protocol offices for use by anybody who wants to lend significance to a flag folding, Colonel Hudspath said. The script will not be used at retreats or funerals, as those are silent ceremonies.
"These ceremonies are meaningful to individuals, especially at their retirement," he said. "We wanted to offer a script, containing factual information, that shows respect for the flag and expresses our gratitude for those individuals who protect our country, both at home and abroad."
By October, officials said the Air Force will make a video available to protocol offices and honor guard units that demonstrates a flag-folding ceremony using the new script.