Flag respect on display for Ford funeral

Actions convey messages. Actions communicate. How one acts in regarding the U.S. flag, at different times when action is required, tells something about character — whether one was even paying attention when respect for the flag, and the ideals it portrays, was explained.

President Ford's casket in the Capitol Rotunda - photo by Todd Heisler, NY Times

President Ford’s casket lies in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. New York Times photo by Todd Heisler.

Here are a few things you may observe during the services for President Ford:

1. On his coffin, the U.S. flag’s union will always be over President Ford’s left shoulder. This is a reversal from the usual display method for the flag; in display on a wall, the field should always be in the upper left as one observes it, the “northwest” corner (as if looking at a map); on a coffin, that would put the flag over the person’s right shoulder. Instead, on a coffin the flag is draped so the union is over the left shoulder. Also, note that a flag draped casket should be carried foot first to the grave.

2. Since Ford is a military veteran, the flag should accompany the casket to the grave, but not into it (I believe this applies also to presidents if they did not serve, but in any case it applies to Ford). The flag will be folded and presented to the family before the casket is lowered into the grave.

3. When the flag is folded at the cemetery, watch how carefully the military people will work to get each fold just right. Their goal is a perfect fold, which will leave only the blue field of stars from the union showing, in a triangular fold. To get it right, the color guard (pall bearers, I presume in this case) will take its time. If the ceremony proceeds very quickly, I would be surprised.

4. It is unlikely that there will be any ceremonial reading during the folding of the flag. Any reading given, however, would be selected by the family. In the past couple of decades, presidential funerals have been planned out well in advance of the event. Differences between Ford’s funeral and Reagan’s funeral in 2004 are due to the different plans of the families, not due to any formal procedure required by U.S. law or tradition. We’re a democratic nation, and such ceremonies are not sacred writ. (I have written here before about the mistaken idea that there is an “official” flag folding ceremony with specific meaning given to each of the 13 foldings of the flag; there is no official ceremony.)

In general, the flag will be treated respectfully. Do not expect to see a lot of flag waving during the service. When the flag is present, it will be treated soberly, with care, with special attention to getting official ceremonial details correct.

Students, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts should pay attention.

  • Associated Press photo by Lawrence Jackson. Telephoto showing some of the 50 flags surrounding the Washington Monument flying at half-mast in honor of the late President Gerald Ford, with the dome of the U.S. Capitol in the background. The Capitol is more than a mile away from the Washington Monument; compression of the images by the telephoto lens makes the dome appear much closer.
Flags fly at half staff in honor of former President Gerald Ford at the Washington Monument, with the U.S. Capitol in the background, on Dec. 27, 2006. Ford will lie in state in the Capitol before burial in Grand Rapids, Mich. Credit: AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson

Flags fly at half staff in honor of former President Gerald Ford at the Washington Monument, with the U.S. Capitol in the background, on Dec. 27, 2006. Ford will lie in state in the Capitol before burial in Grand Rapids, Mich. Credit: AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson

Minor update: The Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Press has an informative article about flag etiquette in this situation, here.

See also:

7 Responses to Flag respect on display for Ford funeral

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    Holy frijole, these QAnon folk have lost it.



  2. […] “Flag respect on display for Ford funeral” […]


  3. Ed Darrell says:


    The custom is that the deceased travels feet first into the church and out of it. Thinking about that, if the body is to travel feet first, then the feet need to be closer to the front of the hearse than the head.

    It’s an interesting question, and I have found no discussion of it. There is probably some site for the cermonial guards that has the information, but I’ve not found it yet.


  4. Ted Gaasch says:

    Why was the casket with the stripes portion of the flag placed forward in the hearse and
    at the memorial service. I assumed that President Ford’s head with the Stars portion of the flag wouldbe placed foreward and not his feet.

    This seemed to be exactly backwards.


  5. Ed Darrell says:

    The 30-day period ends at sundown on January 25 — 30 days after his death on December 27, counting that day as day 1(December has 31 days, so the date in January moves).

    I haven’t found any official listing of the days; Bush’s order for 30 days is in the presidential papers. I did find an article in the newspaper from Cour d’alene, Idaho, that specified January 25. I’m counting that as corroboration.


  6. Ted Hanna says:

    When does the flag go back to the top after President Ford’s funeral? Thanks………….


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