How to Display a Flag in a Shadow Box With Metals

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The shadow box is a time honored military tradition that pays homage to a service member's dedication to his unit and country. It features the insignia of the member's highest rank achieved, personal and unit medals and awards, service dates, and a folded American Flag. The flag is a representation of the member's service and may have been flown at the last base or ship at which the service member was stationed. The flag is a special reminder of the member's service to his country.

Things You'll Need

  • Service ribbons and medals
  • Other service awards
  • Shadow box
  • Glue or pins
  • Pick a flag that is small enough, once folded, to be placed into a shadow box of the service member's choosing. The two most common sizes of American flags for home use are 3-by-5-feet or 4-by-6 feet.

  • Fold the flag in half and then two times width-wise. With two people folding the flag, the blue star field should be facing down on the first fold. Begin folding a triangle from the striped end and stop only when the blue star field is shown. Fold the square end into a triangle and tuck into the fold of the thicker triangle.

  • Prepare the shadow box to fit whatever size flag the service member has chosen. A 3-by-5-foot flag will fold to a triangle with 9-inch sides and a hypotenuse (long edge) of 12.72 inches, whereas a 4-by-6 foot flag will fold to 12-inch sides and a long edge of 16.9 inches. The flag may be quite thick when folded, so plan for its depth in the shadowbox design.

  • Place the flag at the top center of the shadow box with the long edge facing the bottom of the box. The flag should be pinned or glued into place on the felt background.

  • Arrange the service member's medals below the flag and to the viewer's left. Service ribbons, placed in order of precedence according to military statutes, are to be placed to the viewer's right as though worn by the service member. Incorporate items that were important to the service member while serving and place them into the center of the shadow box between the ribbons and medals. Photographs, letters and tools or weaponry may be placed here.

Tips & Warnings

  • Flags flown over the U.S. Capitol may be purchased for a nominal fee from the websites of many members of Congress.
  • Try different arrangements of the flag and the service member's other paraphernalia. The flag also looks good when folded into a square and placed into one of the squares of an internally divided box.
  • Consider the service member's career when picking items to place in the box. Mechanics may appreciate a vintage set of pliers, whereas an infantryman may like the long brass casing of an M-1 Garand's .30-06 ammunition.
  • Vary the size of the box to whatever dimensions you would like.

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