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Protocol for the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance

Recent high-profile sporting events left me wondering about the protocol for the National Anthem, like the one for the Pledge of Allegiance in the U.S. Flag Code.

The protocol for the Pledge of Allegiance is laid out in the Flag code Section 4

The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”, should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove any non-religious headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute. (Italics are mine.)

Orioles Players

The Search Begins

Easy enough, but what about protocol for the National Anthem? I began at Google and started searching and discovered a lot of information that couldn’t be verified. I kept digging.

I located one site that “claimed” to quote the U.S. Flag Code as found on the American Legion website. It contained a section that wasn’t in my copy of the U.S. Flag Code, so I went to the American Legion website to see which version of the Flag Code they were using. It turned out they are using the same one I am, and there is no reference to the National Anthem contained in the Flag Code.

I did find a section on the Legion site titled National Anthem and it did reference the U.S. Code, Title 36, Chapter 10, Section 171 for the proper protocol. Then to confirm, I went to the U.S. Government site containing the United States Codes and dug into Title 36.

This brought up the next hurdle. There was no Chapter 10. WHAT?

More digging …

Eureka

EUREKA! The research paid off in a big way and here is what I located.

  • TITLE 36–PATRIOTIC AND NATIONAL OBSERVANCES, CEREMONIES, AND ORGANIZATIONS
    • SUBTITLE I–PATRIOTIC AND NATIONAL OBSERVANCES AND CEREMONIES
      • PART A–OBSERVANCES AND CEREMONIES
        • CHAPTER 3–NATIONAL ANTHEM, MOTTO, FLORAL EMBLEM, AND MARCH
          • Section 301–National Anthem

Sec. 301. National anthem

(a) Designation.–The composition consisting of the words and music
known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.
(b) Conduct During Playing.–During a rendition of the national
anthem–
(1) when the flag is displayed–
(A) all present except those in uniform should stand at
attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart;
(B) men not in uniform should remove their headdress with
their right hand and hold the headdress at the left shoulder,
the hand being over the heart; and
(C) individuals in uniform should give the military salute
at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until
the last note; and

(2) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face
toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag
were displayed.

There it is. The elusive National Anthem protocol. Now when you attend that next concert, ball game, or school event, you will know the proper conduct when they begin playing the Star Spangled Banner.

Rest of Chapter 3

Here is the rest of the information in this Chapter of the United States Code.

Sec. 302. National motto

“In God we trust” is the national motto.

Sec. 303. National floral emblem

The flower commonly known as the rose is the national floral emblem.

Sec. 304. National march

The composition by John Philip Sousa entitled “The Stars and Stripes Forever” is the national march.

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314 thoughts on “Protocol for the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance

  1. A well done shot of our Texas flag indeed. When you decide to print on photo paper, let me know. I do read your work every now and then, ML Linda

  2. We are planning our 50th anniversary…..after posting the Colors, which comes first, the National Anthem or reciting the Pledge?

    Tina Bowers
    Blount County Rescue Squad
    TN

  3. Tina,

    I am aware of no specific protocol, but I can share how I was taught.

    The pledge is given after the Colors are presented, but before they are posted. The National Anthem is sang after the Colors are posted.

    Such as:

    1. Color Guard called to attention
    2. March Colors to front
    3. Present Colors
    4. Pledge of Allegiance
    5. Post Colors
    6. National Anthem
    7. Color Guard returns to original position
    8. Color Guard dismissed

    I hope this helps in planning the 50th anniversary celebration.

  4. […] to do at the ballgame when the National Anthem is played? For a review, see this article I wrote about the proper protocol for the National Anthem as dictated by the United States […]

  5. What determines if Anthem Code or Title 36 is to be followed?

    I haven’t read title 36 ….. section 301 – Yet. Like Mr Hendrick, I was searching for the elusive chapter 10. What I found instead was The Code for the National Anthem of The United Sates of America, adopted by the National Anthem Committee, April 1942. Which states: “The audience will stand facing the flag or the leader in an attitude of of respectful attention. Outdoors, the men will remove their hats”.

    Some of my earliest memories are of my immigrant parents attending U.S. citizenship classes. It was drilled into me since I was a toddler and practiced by all my peers and teachers througout my school years to place our right hand on our heart during the Pledge of Allegiance and fold our hands in front or behind us during the National Anthem. Unless, I was in scout (or other) uniform, in which case I was to salute; or when in band formation, in which case I was to stand at full attention.

  6. JG, thanks for taking the time to leave a comment and your interest in the National Anthem protocols. It is an interesting subject.

    I haven’t dug any deeper into this, but it is not unusual for different codes to be adopted and modified as time passes. Here is what might have happened …

    The National Anthem Committee put the code together in April 1942, but later when Congress acted to place it into the United States Code (first Chapter 10, later moved to the current location, Title 36, Section 301) it was modified to the current version.

    The same happened with the U.S. Flag Code. It was adopted by the National Flag Conference in 1923, but wasn’t passed by Congress until 1942, nineteen years later. In the process, a few modifications were made, along with several updates since then, with the latest change taking place this year.

  7. Is it appropriate to sing the anthem with the music being strung on a guitar?

    I appreciate all the information provided above. Great job!

  8. Cari, it is always appropriate to sing as the National Anthem is played, no matter the instrument. The National Anthem is “our” anthem, so next time, feel free to sing out.

    There are many reasons why people might not sing along: too shy, not singers, don’t know the words, respectively listening to the musical rendition, respect for the artist, etc. In another article on this website I linked to a youtube video of Whitney Houston singing the National Anthem and I admit, I would probably listen and not sing in that case. She does such a tremendous job.

    Remember, singing the anthem is not required, but allows the “crowd” to join in the revelry.

  9. I’ve been asked to organize an opening ceremony for a Scottish Highland Games. We want to use the National Anthem; God Save the Queen; Flower of Scotland (as Scottish Anthem) and Texas, Our Texas. What would be the proper order?

  10. Robert,
    Thanks for that great question. With a little digging, it seems the precedence is different that I would have guessed.
    According to the book, “Protocol: The Complete Handbook of Diplomatic, Official and Social Usage,” the authors, Mary Jane McCaffree and Pauline Innis, say this, “It has been a long-standing practice to play the national anthem of a foreign visitor before the American anthem. Often questions are asked about this custom, but there is no regulation stating which order should be used, so courtesy and long-standing usage prevail.”
    Without regulations, I think the courtesy continues with the Scottish and Texas “anthems.” With that in mind, the order would be as follows:

    1. United Kingdom
    2. Scottish
    3. Texas
    4. United States

    The bottom line is there is not written law or regulation governing the protocol of order, meaning you can do what you want, but courtesy is the precedence.
    I hope this helps Robert.

  11. Larry, I read the comment re: removing hats when outdoors during the national anthem. According to the flag code, men not in uniform also remove their hats during the pledge.

    I’ve had many a Scouter tell me to remove my hat when outdoors in uniform during the presentation of the colors and the pledge, but I tell them men in uniform are to salute with covers on — was I right or wrong?

  12. Fred, you are exactly right. The U.S. Flag Code addresses this issue in Section 4:

    … Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute.

    The military salute uses the same manner of the Boy Scout salute, i.e. right hand to the eyebrow. The military salute can not be accomplished if a cover is in the right hand. The part I find fascinating is “remain silent.” I take this to mean that uniformed men are not to say the Pledge of Allegiance, but to stand at attention with a salute while the other recite the pledge.

    Have you ever heard anything about that?

  13. But when did the anthem protocol change?

    The hand over heart during anthem started within the last 20 years, prior to that I remember hand over heart was only for Pledge and God Bless America.

    At first only the least literate of sporting event spectators would place their hands over hearts during anthem, now it is in the code???

  14. Thanks for taking the time to ask your question, Confused. The simple answer is … it hasn’t. The National Anthem protocol was codified in 1942 with few changes since then . The part containing “with the right hand over the heart” was part of the original 1942 document.

    I think the National Anthem protocol is like many of the protocols in the U.S. Code, it is not taught in school, but is there for those interested. I was interested and started digging and discovered the information in the article. It was all new to me too.

  15. he’s what I found…. it does not require hands on chest…. but your findings seem more official… one has to wonder when the last edit to the protocol occurred…. since 2001? Its a petty thing… but not when hoisted in front of millions of gullible Americans along with directions to respond a certain way…
    http://www.menc.org/guides/patriotic/reprise.pdf

  16. That’s a great find colbydog. I have enjoyed reading though the pdf document. Here are a few observations. The document you discovered is dated April 1942. The U.S. Code shows the Section (b) (hand over heart part) with a date of June 22, 1942. The committee completed their work in April and Congress approved the protocol in June. They may have made revisions, I don’t know.
    The only other times that part of the code was tweaked was December 22, 1942 and July 7, 1976. The only problem, it doesn’t say what changes were made on those dates and all I can find are references to “reaffirmation of language.”
    It is interesting to dig into the history of something like this, though. Fun stuff.

    1. Here is a copy of the “official code” from April 1942. It seems to be an official document.
      http://www.bostonleadershipbuilders.com/0political/patriotic/nationalanthem.pdf

      It does not say the hand needs to be over the heart during the singing. Of course, this may have been changed. All I know is that when my choir sang at a MLB game recently we were told we did not have to place our hands over our hearts. I see very few soloists do this .

      1. Thank you for writing. I will post a new article today or tomorrow on The Daily Flag using your comment, and will respond to your comment there. Best Wishes, Deborah Hendrick

      2. Thank you for writing. I will post a new article today or tomorrow on The Daily Flag using your comment, and will respond to your comment there. Best Wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  17. Who knows which anthem is played first: The National Anthem or the Black National Anthem at a school function.

    Thank you in advance

  18. Dear Juey,

    Thank you for writing. The U.S. Code does not address the advent of the “Black National Anthem.” Here is what it does say:

    U.S. Code (TITLE 36–PATRIOTIC AND NATIONAL OBSERVANCES, CEREMONIES, AND ORGANIZATIONS, SUBTITLE I–PATRIOTIC AND NATIONAL OBSERVANCES AND CEREMONIES, PART A–OBSERVANCES AND CEREMONIES, CHAPTER 3–NATIONAL ANTHEM, MOTTO, FLORAL EMBLEM, AND MARCH, Section 301–National Anthem)

    Sec. 301. National anthem

    (a) Designation.–The composition consisting of the words and music
    known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.
    (b) Conduct During Playing.–During a rendition of the national
    anthem–
    (1) when the flag is displayed–
    (A) all present except those in uniform should stand at
    attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart;
    (B) men not in uniform should remove their headdress with
    their right hand and hold the headdress at the left shoulder,
    the hand being over the heart; and
    (C) individuals in uniform should give the military salute
    at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until
    the last note; and

    (2) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face
    toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag
    were displayed.

    According to the book, “Protocol: The Complete Handbook of Diplomatic, Official and Social Usage,” the authors, Mary Jane McCaffree and Pauline Innis, say this, “It has been a long-standing practice to play the national anthem of a foreign visitor before the American anthem. Often questions are asked about this custom, but there is no regulation stating which order should be used, so courtesy and long-standing usage prevail.”

    The Black National Anthem is not the anthem of a foreign county, but would be considered an American patriotic song (like “America the Beautiful” or “God Bless America”), and it would be played after the National Anthem.

    I hope this helps.
    Deborah Hendrick

    1. When there is no music no flag we were told to face the direction of Washington DC. Someone pls show me this link.

      1. Hi Rebecca. There are a variety of ways we render honors to the flag. We stand and salute (heart salute or military salute) as it passes by, and we recite the Pledge of Allegiance. However, we never recite the Pledge unless there is a flag to actually view.

        The National Anthem is a little different. The honor we render during the Anthem is to the Anthem itself, which takes priority over the flag. We stand at attention, and salute as appropriate to who we are individually. We look to the flag is one is present and can be seen, but if no flag is visible, then we are supposed to turn in the direction of the music. That could be music coming over a loud speaker in a classroom. A lot of people choose not to salute if they can’t see the flag, and/or see the music being performed, but that’s not what the Code says. The Code asks that we honor the Anthem if we can hear it being performed.

        I have included the entire National Anthem Code below. Note that we are not told when, or where, or under what circumstances the National Anthem should be performed, but only how we should behave as individuals. And there is nothing about facing Washington.

        I hope this helps, Rebecca. Thank you for writing.
        Best wishes,
        Deborah Hendrick

        36 U.S.C.
        United States Code, 2011 Edition
        Title 36 – PATRIOTIC AND NATIONAL OBSERVANCES, CEREMONIES, ANDORGANIZATIONS
        Subtitle I – Patriotic and National Observances and Ceremonies
        Part A – Observances and Ceremonies
        CHAPTER 3 – NATIONAL ANTHEM, MOTTO, FLORAL EMBLEM1 MARCH, AND TREE
        Sec. 301 – National anthem
        From the U.S. Government Printing Office, http://www.gpo.gov

        §301. National anthem

        (a) Designation.—The composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.

        (b) Conduct During Playing.—During a rendition of the national anthem—

        (1) when the flag is displayed—

        (A) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note;

        (B) members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute in the manner provided for individuals in uniform; and

        (C) all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and

        (2) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.

        (Pub. L. 105–225, Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1263; Pub. L. 110–417, [div. A], title V, §595, Oct. 14, 2008, 122 Stat. 4475.)
        Historical and Revision Notes Revised

        Section
        Source (U.S. Code) Source (Statutes at Large)
        301(a) 36:170. Mar. 3, 1931, ch. 436, 46 Stat. 1508.
        301(b) 36:171. June 22, 1942, ch. 435, §6, 56 Stat. 380; Dec. 22, 1942, ch. 806, §6, 56 Stat. 1077; July 7, 1976, Pub. L. 94–344, §1(18), 90 Stat. 812.
        Amendments

        2008—Subsec. (b)(1)(A) to (C). Pub. L. 110–417 added subpars. (A) to (C) and struck out former subpars. (A) to (C) which read as follows:

        “(A) all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart;

        “(B) men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold the headdress at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and

        “(C) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note; and”.

  19. Originally, the code, adopted by the official National Anthem Committee in 1942, advocated that emphasis be placed on the singing of the anthem, as they felt that the message of the text was of “paramount importance.” Leaders were encouraged to invite participation from the audience members, who are instructed to stand facing the flag “in an attitude of respectful attention.” This matches exactly what I was taught in the Girl Scouts and school during the late 60’s and early 70’s. I am 46 years old and I have always stood at attention during the National Anthem, but I have not covered my heart. I have always covered my heart for the Pledge of Allegiance.

    The protocol for the National Anthem has definitely changed, which I only learned about by doing this research. The most recent version of 36 U.S.C.A. § 301, went into effect on August 12, 1998. There have been other revisions over the years.

    I have compared notes with other peers and they report the same thing…and mass confusion over this whole issue.

    Here is a link to the original 1942 document.

    http://www.menc.org/guides/patriotic/reprise.pdf

  20. Thanks for your input, Sherri. I’m like you, remembering my youth. What little I was taught about the National Anthem was like you said. Also, the document you link to is referenced above in the comments with my answer pertaining to it (comment 16).

    My research shows the April 1942 document as the Committee recommendation document, not the law adopted by congress later that year. According to the original law, it was amended to contain the hand over heart phrase by the time Congress passed the law in June 1942.

    The last actual language change I can find, since the original law was passed, was in July 1976. The other references are to “language affirmations” which is apparently required ever so often.

    What I find the most interesting is the lack of documentation about what changes were made the few times it was amended. I can find references to general changes, but nothing specific.

    If you find further information, please share it. This is great.

  21. […] February I wrote an article about the protocol for the National Anthem. In it, I documented my research for the proper behavior during the playing and/or singing of the […]

  22. What about the musicians? Unless they are in one of the armed forces, they are not military personnel and yet they do not remove their hats and certainly can’t place their right over their heart while playing their instruments.

  23. […] this season, no matter where the game, when they play the National Anthem, salute Old Glory, and sing along (under your breath if you need […]

  24. There is more confusion these days in regards to the OFFICIAL protocol regarding the National Anthem but the MAJORITY of us were indeed taught, HAND OVER HEART for the Pledge, and when Anthem played, TO STAND AT ATTENTION REPSEPCTFULLY FACING THE FLAG , men to remove hat but if in UNIFORM, to SALUTE (with hat remaining on). It was never specified but ENCOURAGED to “sing along” the words. These days more than ever, folks”stumble” with the words, so usually just stand respectfully. FEW ARE AWARE OF ANY REQUIRED HAND OVER HEART DECREE FOR THE NATIONAL ANTHEM, so it has caused consternation and ridicule (think the latest attempt to cause a major flap, the online rumor regarding Obama seen as “disrespecting” the flag/nation/etc but even in that instance, it was NOT the Pledge nor the ANTHEM being played..it was a rendition of AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL but the rumors continue for political snarkings and that is quite disrespectful to all for it is an untruth perpetuated to make political gamemanship, not truly respectful to the ANTHEM and for all that represents .

  25. Why do some find it necessary, now and increasingly so, to hold their hands over their hearts and remove headware for America the Beautiful?

  26. Apparently, Bozzy and I received the same e-photo, claiming Obama is disrespecting the flag by not participating in the Pledge of Allegiance (even though the caption clearly states that the National Anthem is being sung). Look carefully and see that no one on the literal platform is vocally participating nor facing the flag, as each site I’ve visited says is correct protocol.
    Before I replied to the note’s sender, I, too, looked for anthem etiquette/protocol lest I also sent incorrect information. I find conflicting information.

    So, what’s the bottom line… Do we or don’t we place our hands over hearts while the National Anthem is being sung?

  27. Bozzy, Terry, and Bobbie—Thank you for writing. I am so glad that you found The Daily Flag.

    Re: “American the Beautiful” and why some people would hold their hands over their heart: they just don’t know any better. I think America the Beautiful is being played more often now simply for variety. Some people recognize it as a “patriotic” song and get confused. In a presidential election year, everything in the “patriotic” music genre will be played, over and over again. I’m glad Sousa wrote so many marches! It’s the only time we get to hear some of them.

    Bobbie, when the National Anthem is played, we absolutely are supposed to salute. All those who can, should stand and face the flag. If there is no flag present, then we “face the music.”

    Those in military uniform or similar (Boy Scouts, VFW, firemen, police, etc) and wearing hats should leave their hats in place, and salute according to their regulations.

    A man in civilian clothes, and that includes a sporting uniform, should remove his hat and hold it over his heart for the salute during the National Anthem. Women are not asked to remove their hats, but personally I would if I were wearing a ball cap or some sort of unisex head-covering. A woman would not be criticized for doing this. If you are not wearing a hat, then simply hold your hand over your heart for the duration of the National Anthem.

    But it all comes back to education. Families, civic, and social organizations must take the point position. I don’t think we can expect or assume that the public school system will continue to teach the ideas and concepts of “good manners and public decorum.” And this is not a slam against public education. It was always the responsibility of parents to first teach their children good manners.

    Review “Section 301” straight up on this page for the U.S. Code.

  28. Probably getting really technical here, but…
    At a parade, if the National Anthem is being played from, say a float moving in the parade,
    what is the appropriate behavior? Should all spectators stand and salute?
    I remember a Veteran’s Day parade couple of years back in Prescott, AZ. They didn’t play the National Anthem during the parade, but every time the Flag was presented during the parade by marchers, Veterans, floats, carried on horseback, bands, etc., quite a few of the spectators there (in uniform) stood up and saluted the flag. And there were LOTS of flag presentations!
    Just really great stuff!
    Thanks.

  29. Hi Albert—I’m glad you stopped by. I’ve never heard the National Anthem being played “on the move,” but I guess I would salute the float as it passed by me. Like that parade in Prescott, I live in an area where every parade has more than one set of colors in attendance. Shriners, Boy Scouts, mounted sheriff’s posse, riding clubs, etc., and when more than one city or county is represented—it sure gets colorful! I salute every time the colors go by, no matter how often.

  30. […] practice to play the national anthem … at attention during the national Anthem, but I have not …http://www.flagsbay.com/flag/2007/02/13/protocol-for-the-national-anthem-and-pledge-of-allegiance/Read “RE: WA2K Radio is now on the air” at English Forum…UK. the group returned to South Wales and […]

  31. What if you are at a complex where teams are practicing on one or more fields and the other field is starting its games for the night and plays the national anthem on that field for that specific event. What ahould the players/spectators/etc do on the other fields?

  32. Jimmy, that’s a really good question.

    The protocol really doesn’t address this particular dilemma, but I think a rule of thumb MIGHT be (not IS) that if you can see the flag and plainly hear the National Anthem, it would be appropriate to face the flag and hold hand over heart. Just be aware if you do this, you will be the only one. Of course, that would make you unique, too.

    That’s just a tough question that is difficult to have a definite answer. Anyone out there have an opinion on this one? Join in.

    1. I was in this situation coaching first base and I thought the umpires were going to call time, but didn’t and continued with the game. Personally, I felt the umpires should have called time and paid tribute to our National Anthem as I felt uncomfortable with this situation…..the next time this happens, I will call time and address my attention and hopefully everybody else will follow and respond to our National Anthem.

  33. Question of the day, what is the code/regulation that states the National Anthem (Star Spangled Banner) is played before any U.S. State Song. I can not find it in writing.
    Everything else but…..Thanks in advance.

  34. Hi Vicky, thank you for writing.

    I cannot find it in writing either! But what I can tell you (from the book on diplomacy, “Protocol” by McCaffree, Innis and Sand) is that the ONLY time any other anthem is played BEFORE the Star-Spangled Banner is when the guest of honor at the event is a dignitary from another country. If the Ambassador from Italy were present, then the Italian National Anthem is played first, then our National Anthem is played second.

    Extrapolating from that, we can safely determine that any and all state songs would be played after the National Anthem is played. In the meantime, I will research this some more. I’m sure I’ve read it within state of Texas protocol, which would not contradict U.S. State Department protocol, and presumably be appropriate in all states.

  35. What about non-citizens? such as baseball players . what do they do for nat anthem?

  36. Hi Steve,

    A non-US citizen baseball player would remove his ball cap, and stand with his arms at his sides. He is not required to salute the US flag.

    Hope this helps.

  37. (A) all present except those in uniform should stand at
    attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart;

    O.K., understand that

    (2) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face
    toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag
    were displayed.

    O.K., understand that

    Re: “American the Beautiful” and why some people would hold their hands over their heart: they just don’t know any better.

    Confused.

    What happens when America The Beautiful is used in place of The National Anthem, and a color guard is present? Is there a written protocol, or should we act as if it is the Anthem and place our right hand over our heart?

  38. Hello JD—I bet you aren’t the only one who was confused. I don’t want to extrapolate too much from your note for fear of going astray, but …

    When the color guard brought the colors in and posted them, you would have saluted the flag as it passed abreast of your position. If the color guard did not “parade” the colors, you would have saluted at the time the colors were set into the flag stand(s), taking your cue from the color guard.

    America the Beautiful is one of this country’s most beloved patriotic songs, but it is not the National Anthem and does not receive the honor of a salute. I can well imagine the awkward expressions and shrugged shoulders of those who held their hands over their hearts anyway, because in the moment it seemed like the right thing to do.

    It is not necessary to always have the National Anthem following the color guard (and/or the Pledge of Allegiance), but if it seemed as though American the Beautiful was deliberately, or carelessly, or thoughtlessly scheduled immediately following the posting of the colors—instead of the National Anthem—then someone was ignorant, or careless, or thoughtless.

    Regardless, no salute for America the Beautiful, and perhaps a kind note to whomever planned the ceremony, if possible, explaining the problem.

  39. It’s been a long time since I was in Officer Training School, but I seem to remember there were different rules for indoors & outdoors.
    Outdoors, uniformed people render a hand salute during the National Anthem; other men remove hats & place them or the right hand over the heart; other women ditto.
    Indoors is different, perhaps related to a Marine Corps rule that one doen’t salute when not “under cover” [wearing a uniform hat]. Uniformed personnel stand at attention & face the Flag &/or the music; other men & women do the same: no hand/hat over the heart indoors.
    Anyone else remember that difference?

  40. Hi USAF, Retired—thank you for your service to our country, and thank you for writing.
    Indoors, uniformed personnel (who are not wearing their “covers”) are to stand at attention during the National Anthem, and they do not sing the National Anthem. But civilians DO salute with the hand over the heart, and they are permitted to sing if it is appropriate to the event. The portion of the U.S. Code that addresses saluting the flag during the National Anthem is not found in the same section of the code, as the “flag code,” which is why most people did not know that civilians are indeed supposed to salute.

    Outdoors, it is as you remember. Additionally, veterans are now permitted to render a hand salute to the flag, if wearing a hat. Indoors of course, they would salute over the heart. See http://www.flagsbay.com/flag/2008/10/20/veterans-salute-the-flag-clarifying-the-change-in-the-us-code/

  41. Well, I was admonished for not removing my hat while playing the Anthem with my band at an outdoor event. I tried to defend my action, or I should say my “non-action”, by explaining that because we were playing music before, during, and after the anthem with no break in between, I couldn’t have done that and still played my instrument. This is why I posted the earlier question (see number 22). I see marching bands playing the anthem with their uniforms and hats on. Is there a protocol which covers the musicians?

  42. Ben, it looks like Larry or I failed to to answer you when you wrote before. Please accept my apologies.

    The U.S. Code is silent on this bit of etiquette. Obviously, performers must be given some latitude when it comes to the National Anthem. A soloist singing the National Anthem would not be expect to salute. From photos I have examined, military musicians follow standard protocol by wearing their covers outdoors, and removing them indoors—regardless of when or where they play, even the National Anthem.

    But the National Anthem is also a stand-alone musical event, and should not be combined in a medley with other songs. It is normally announced, to give people time to remove their hats as necessary. If it is possible for you to remove your hats before playing the Anthem, it would be a nice gesture, but I would give you a pass on this one.

  43. Is it ever proper to stop the playing of the National Anthem abruptly (mid-way), as in before the pledge of allegiance at a school?

  44. Does anyone know. . . .When you hear the Pledge of Allegiance, and no flag is visable, what is the protocol? I have dug, I have researched and I can not find anything that addresses this situation. The example I have is in school, if you are in the hallway and the pledge is being recited, what do you do? I stop, turn to the flag I know is out front, hand over heart and recite my pledge. Am I correct?

  45. ” … the Pledge of Allegiance … should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart … .”

    Tami, this is an unusual problem, and one the legislators did not anticipate when they wrote the code. The U.S. Code is silent on this. I certainly don’t think it’s wrong for you to “face the flag” if you know where it is, and continue as if you were in sight of the flag. But I would not criticize those who merely stood still and waited, while the pledge was being recited over a P.A. system.

  46. I did find this… but it does not address Deborah’s question. I wasn’t aware that men in uniform were NOT to recite the pledge.
    ________________________________________________________________________

    http://usgovinfo.about.com/library/weekly/aa101602a.htm

    Reaffirming God in the Pledge of Allegiance
    The bill, passed 99-0 by the Senate in June, reaffirms the effect of a 1954 act of Congress which originally inserted the words “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance.

    The bill formalizes congressional recognition of the official wording of the Pledge of Allegiance as being:

    “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

    The bill also modifies the manner in which the Pledge of Allegiance should be delivered by stating that, when not in uniform, men should remove any non-religious hat, cap or headdress. The previous requirement been for men not in uniform to remove any headdress.

    Under the bill, the Pledge of Allegiance, “should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove any non-religious headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute.”

  47. Jenny—it’s great that you tried to find more information on the Pledge of Allegiance.

    I believe that “persons in uniform” do not recite the Pledge of Allegiance because members of the Armed Forces have taken the Oath of Enlistment, swearing to ” … support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic … ,” and that is the ultimate commitment to the United States.

  48. One earlier comment made me wonder if it is always appropriate to sing along. Are there situations when it is NOT appropriate to sing along? (I’d thought it an insult to a performer when others have sung along.)

    Why would instumental versions demand the same protocol as a sung version? It seems to me that context should be taken into consideration when no words are included.

    What about when the anthem is a part of another work (like a movie, television, or radio production or a concert).

  49. Hello Philip,
    I apologize for being so tardy in responding to your questions. When the National Anthem is part of work of fiction, then no one is expected to stand and salute. But the National Anthem is a stand-alone song, and not to be combined with other songs in a medley. If it were part of a concert, I would think it would be at the beginning, and clearly announced so the people in attendance could stand and salute, and not be surprised to suddenly hear the melody.

    When the National Anthem is sung by a soloist, you should not sing, unless you sang very quietly to yourself, which would not be impolite I think. Quite frankly, some soloists take such horrible liberties with the melody line, I don’t know how one could possibly sing along with them anyway. (I confess—I take a dim view of personalized renditions of the National Anthem.)

    If the National Anthem is performed by an orchestra or band, and there is not a soloist or group invited to sing the words, then I believe the presumption is that the entire gathered assembly is invited to sing.

  50. I am the Graduation Marshall for my college. For the past several graduations we have done a Presentation of Colors and recited the Pledge. I have been asked about dropping the Pledge and singing the National Anthem. I was wondering about the propriety of the Presentation of Colors without the Pledge.
    Thoughts????
    If we do use the presentation, pledge and anthem, what is the correct order?

  51. Neal, you have asked good questions. There are no hard and fast rules, only tradition. In my experience, the Pledge of Allegiance is recited when it is impractical to sing the National Anthem, such as a club meeting or other small gathering. At a graduation ceremony, I would not include the Pledge.

    I would be tempted to skip the Color Guard too, and have the Colors in place at the graduation venue. Why? There will be many elderly people at the graduation ceremony, and standing through (the Pledge, perhaps), the Presentation of Colors, then standing through the National Anthem is a lot of standing.

    If the National Anthem is to be sung by a soloist, let the those gathered know right at the beginning. The MC should say something like, “Ladies and Gentlemen, would you please stand while John Doe sings the National Anthem.” I personally think that on an occasion like this, the entire assembly should sing the National Anthem together, but it still needs a lead singer with enough poise to say, “Please join with me in singing the Star-Spangled Banner (who will then sing the song as it is written).” This gives everyone a chance to breathe deeply, stretch a bit since they have been sitting while waiting for the ceremony to begin, and then ready themselves for the long ceremony to follow.

    If you want to do all three “honors,” then it is Presentation of Colors, Pledge, then National Anthem.

    Best Wishes, and Congratulations,
    Deborah

  52. Is there any protocol for schools using both the pledge and the national anthem? My school starts with the national anthem, but fades it out after “the rockets red glare”, then recites the pledge. Do you have any thoughts/comments on this practice? It seems totally disrespectful to me.

    1. P. Sanders—I apologize. You wrote in November and somehow I overlooked your question. I agree with you; I also think it is disrespectful to quit singing in the middle of the National Anthem to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

      As I said in the comment above, in my experience the Pledge is generally recited in smaller gatherings, where singing the National Anthem is impractical. As a school child, I said the Pledge every day in my classroom, and when the whole school was together for an assembly, ball game, or other large venue, then we sang the National Anthem.

      There is no rule that says it must be done this way; it was our custom or tradition. If a school wants to play the National Anthem over speakers and pipe it into every classroom each day, that’s ok, too. But stopping the Anthem in the middle of a stanza, then reciting the Pledge gives short shrift to the Anthem, and that’s wrong. Moreover, I think it sends the wrong message to the students (“Let’s get this over with.”).

      The National Anthem is a stand alone song. It should not be combined in a medley with other patriotic songs, and I think it should always be introduced.

      And this is just my very fussy opinion, but I detest highly stylized and personalized versions of the National Anthem. I appreciate anyone who has the voice, poise, and courage to stand before a group and sing the National Anthem, but I think that those gathered with them, should be able to sing along with them, if only under their breath. I would rather be surrounded by a thousand voices (no matter how imperfect) singing the National Anthem, than listen to the finest singer in the world singing it as a solo. But that’s just me …

  53. During the Super Bowl, the camera cut to Soldiers in Iraq who were standing at attention during the signing of God Bless America. Is this supposed to be done? If so, where is this written into rule or regulation? Thanks.

    1. Hi Josh,
      “God Bless America” is a beloved patriotic American song. Knowing that live cameras were going to be on them, the soldiers may have been ordered to stand at attention out of respect to the song, or they may have stood spontaneously. To my knowledge, there is no “law” in the U.S. Code that asks civilians or military personnel to stand during “God Bless America.” There is also the possibility that the soldiers were misinformed, and thought they were standing for the National Anthem, only to see/hear “God Bless America” instead. Then it would have looked rude for them to sit down.

      I was in the kitchen making nachos when Faith Hill sang the song, and did not see that part.

      Thank you for writing, Josh, and Best Wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

  54. I found this whole discussion very enlightening! But it doesn’t quite address my situation. What would the proper protocol be for a Cub Scout leader who is not a US citizen as regards the pledge? Standing at attention or saluting? (trying to reconcile answers 27 and 36)

    1. I am a big fan of Scouting, Jeremy, and I thank you for being a leader for these little guys. You are in a unique position with these boys because you are not a U.S. citizen. What a great opportunity for you to talk about affection, love, and respect for one’s country, and while the Cubs are young, they are old enough to understand that your allegiance may lie elsewhere. As a non-US citizen, you are not required to salute the flag, or recite the Pledge of Allegiance—-but in fact: no US citizen is required to do these things either. It is voluntary, and it is done out of respect and love of country and the flag.

      It is always proper to stand at attention, and because you will have discussed this with the Cub Scouts, they will understand if you do not recite the Pledge or salute the U.S. flag. But if you want to salute (as a Scout’s sign of respect) during the Pledge of Allegiance, but not actually recite it, that’s ok too.

      Jeremy, thank you for writing. I hope this helps.

  55. I am retired Navy and attend high school football games. The football field has a flag pole and the flag is flying, then a local group presents the flag at the 50 yard line. when the National Anthem is played all in attendance have their attention to the flag pole vice the flag presented on the field. I know that you should bring your attention to the flag being presented. I can not find the code on this can someone please help. thank you

    1. Hi Randy—There is nothing in the U.S. Flag Code that addresses the occasion of multiple U.S. flags being flown (at an event). I agree that saluting the “marching” flag carried by the color guard would be the proper choice, but I don’t have a definitive resource to prove it. This rule could be found in military flag code, and because you are retired Navy, maybe that is why you remember it.

      While I have often referenced the military flag manuals, and have read at length in all of them, I do not personally remember coming across this particular instruction. All of the military flag manuals are linked in a tab at the top of The Daily Flag. I will look for this, and you could too, if you want. The interesting thing is the services do not always agree on every aspect of military flag protocol, which causes the occasional inter-service dust-up.

      Thank you for writing, Randy
      Best Wishes, Deborah

  56. Fascinating. After “The Star-Spangled Banner” is the only national anthem in the world that requires us Americans not in uniform to stand and render the hand-on-heart civillian salute. Otherwise, the United States is one of the countries in the world to render a civillian salute of any kind during a national anthem like ours. That means that we Americans not in uniform stand without the hand-on-heart salute for a different national anthem, whether it’s “O Canada” or “God Save the Queen”. Of course, some people stand and wave a national flag during a national anthem, like all the prommers do when singing along “God Save the Queen” at the Last Night of the Proms. The following URL shows you an example of you standing up waving a national flag during a national anthem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XL72ViXKS-k

    Pretty self-explanatory, eh?

    1. Hello Donny, thank you for writing. Yes—it is proper and the correct etiquette to stand at attention for the national anthem of any county when it is played in the U.S., but Americans would not salute. It is proper protocol, and not only that, but good manners—to stand at attention when the national anthem is played and you are in that country—but Americans would not salute.

      The proper protocol for citizens of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland is to stand at attention—and stand still—for “God Save the Queen,” but on the Last Night of the Proms, with love of country and spirits especially high, it would be awfully hard to keep from waving the flag under the circumstances.

      I wrote about the Proms and flag waving on The Daily Flag here.

  57. @Donny Pearson – Oops, I meant “although.”

  58. At a graduation ceremony, should the National Anthem be played before Pomp and Circumstance and should the “Pledge of Alliegence” follow or proceed the National Anthem?

    Thank you for your insight on this very important issue.

    1. Hi Jonathan. The short answer to your question is: Pomp and Circumstance, Pledge of Allegiance, and National Anthem.

      However, there is no written protocol that says the Pledge comes before the National Anthem, only custom and tradition. In a large, lengthy gathering such as a graduation ceremony, I would even skip the Pledge of Allegiance and sing only the National Anthem, to lessen the burden on the elderly to stand each time, or to remain standing for a long time.

      As a general rule, the Pledge is said when it is not practical to sing the National Anthem, such as in a club meeting, or in the classroom, or assemblies. When there is a larger gathering (convention, ball game, graduation), when there is someone who can lead everyone in singing the National Anthem, or when there is musical accompaniment and/or a soloist, then the National Anthem is traditional performed.

      However you choose to do it—and certainly do both if you want—remember that the Pledge and the National Anthem should always be introduced, and so that those assembled can be given time to stand, and the Pledge is often led by an honored guest at the event. “Ladies and Gentlemen, would you please rise and salute the flag, while I lead you in the Pledge of Allegiance (—or while Susie Jones sings the National Anthem).”

      I hope this helps. And Best Wishes to all the Graduates 🙂 Deborah Hendrick

  59. I umpire baseball (below college level) and wondered exactly when the hat should be removed. A Viet Nam vet told me to remove it when the first note is played ~ same as the time to salute, but often my partner and I are the only ones without hats removed while waiting for the recording to begin. A few times players/coaches have offered a reminder to me to remove my hat. Is it possible that this specific information exists somewhere to substantiate what the vet said or just go with the status quo?

  60. what is the protocol for a clan tartan flag at a highland games during the Star-Spangled Banner ? should they be lowered?

  61. It the protocol you stated for words and music, or word or music. In other words do you need to stand and put your hand over your heart if only the music is being played?

    1. Hi Jon.
      No matter what combination of the National Anthem is being played, one should stand and salute—either a heart salute or a military salute, if appropriate. When in doubt, a heart salute is always correct. Thank you for writing, Deborah Hendrick

  62. Question- I remember somewhere a protocol point that the national anthem is never to be played as background music. I bring this up because I just saw a TV commercial selling used cars that used the anthem as background- heard a radio commercial doing the same. Seems disrespectful.

    1. Hi Kathi, You certainly are correct that using the National Anthem in a commercial is disrespectful. I wrote about this topic last year in “Why Dew you mistreat the National Anthem?” I wrote to Pepsi, and received a “neutral” response, but never heard from the again, which indicates to me that Pepsi doesn’t really care about what I think. But I wrote them, and I encourage you to write any advertiser who misuses the flag or the National Anthem.

  63. At a U.S. event where the Canadian National Anthem, the United States National Anthem, and the pledge are part of the ceremony, is it okay to recite the pledge between the two national anthems?

    1. Becky, according to U.S. State Department protocol and etiquette, the national anthems of other countries are played first, then the American national anthem is played second or last. The U.S. Code does not specify an order for the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem. It is my observation that the Pledge is generally said before the National Anthem, but in other parts of the country, it could the other way around. However, I think it would be fine to put the Pledge in between the two Anthems. Americans stand at attention for the national anthems of other nations, but do not salute. Your Canadian guests would reciprocate by standing at attention for the Pledge and our National Anthem. All three items should be announced to give guests in attendance time to stand up before beginning.

      Thank you for writing, Becky, and Best Wishes,
      Deborah

  64. This has been great information. I have a little different question about protocol when two countries’ anthems are being used. What is the American color guard doing during the playing of the other country’s anthem? And are they allowed to post the colors of both country? From previous posts, I understand that the order is 1) presentation of colors 2) Pledge 3) Posting of colors 4) foreign country anthem 5) national anthem. If this is correct, should the other country’s colors be posted in advance? Should the color be dismissed before the anthems begin?

    1. Jimmy, these are great questions, and I am going to answer in a slightly different format so I don’t overlook anything.

      What is the American color guard doing during the playing of the other country’s anthem? Everyone present, not just the color guard, should stand at attention during the playing of another country’s national anthem, but Americans do not salute a foreign flag, just as a foreigner would stand, but not salute, during the Star-Spangled Banner. Members of the color guard do not salute.

      And are they allowed to post the colors of both country? Yes. The flag of the other nation is given the honor of being posted first, then the U.S. flag is posted second. The U.S. flag is put into the right-most stand, and the foreign flag is placed directly left of the U.S. flag.

      From previous posts, I understand that the order is 1) presentation of colors 2) Pledge 3) Posting of colors 4) foreign country anthem 5) national anthem. The U.S. Code is silent on this kind of ceremony, so we rely upon tradition. Boy Scouts, for example, hold the colors until after the Pledge, and most events would be the same.

      If this is correct, should the other country’s colors be posted in advance? No. It would be a breach of protocol to post the foreign flag, while the rest of the color guard stood behind, and the Pledge was recited. In a situation such as this, all the guests are still standing, and generally someone has been invited to lead the pledge. There is no doubt about which flag is being “pledged.”

      Should the color [guard] be dismissed before the anthems begin? It depends on how much time there is between posting the colors and the playing of the anthems. If there is a Master of Ceremony, introductions for honored guests, soloists to be introduced or musicians, etc., then the color guard can depart before the MC begins.

      Thank you for writing, Jimmy, and Best Wishes,
      Deborah

  65. I have a friend, (not a citizen of the United States, but a legal resident) who was admonsihed by a woman at a church event for placing his hand over his heart during the national anthem. He placed his hand over his heart and sang along. She approached him afterward and stated that she and a few others were offended that he did that, as he is not a US citizen. Was it improper for him to show respect in this manner? [I didn’t think it was improper, but I stated I would ask the question.]

    1. Your friend absolutely is free to salute the flag (with a heart salute) and sing the National Anthem. There is not one word in the U.S. Code that would forbid him from doing so.

      As a general rule, is is assumed that aliens would not want to salute or sing to an American flag (having an allegiance to their own home country’s flag and anthem), but out of respect they stand at attention and do not salute the flag. This is a common occasion for athletes from other countries who play sports in America. But they are most welcome to salute and sing if they want to. (And I’d like to have a heart-to-heart talk with the lady at church.)

      Elizabeth, thank you for writing, and give my warmest regards to your friend.
      Deborah

  66. Does anyone know if a lady’s hat should be removed during the reciting of the pledge of alligience?

    1. Jill, a woman does not need to remove her hat during the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem. Thank you for writing.

  67. Thank you so much for researching the National Anthem protocol. I was recently at a function where the flag was displayed, so the attendees placed their hands over their hearts. I had grown up merely standing in a respectful manner. I had thought the protocol was otherwise and didn’t realize the difference between presence of the flag and it not being present. I now know the proper protocol and am very appreciative.

    1. You are most welcome, John.

  68. Just a query on the protocols for non-US citizens. From the same codes quoted in the original entry note Title 4 Chapter 1 Section 9 “Conduct during hoisting, lowering or passing of flag”. Identical in procedure to Title 36.301 etc. it adds the proviso “Citizens of other countries present should stand at attention.” As this is missing from the protocol regarding the playing of the US National Anthem it suggests that even non-US citizens should stand with hand over heart, which some might object to.

    1. Hi FlipC. Thank you for writing. The U.S. Code generally serves as its own commentary. So one part of the code is never interpreted to contradict another part of the code. The portion of the U.S. Code that addresses the protocol for the National Anthem is unmistakeably written for Americans, especially when read entirely within context. I think it is a stretch to extrapolate and think that because it does not specifically address behavior for non-US citizens, then is means that non-US citizens are supposed to heart salute during the National Anthem.

      But your point is well-taken because non-US citizens (especially professional athletes) frequently write me to ask how they should behave during these “American” occasions, which is very thoughtful of them. They have not read the U.S. Code, which no one would expect of them. Perhaps we Americans need to be more careful, to quote more precisely or in full context so that there is no misunderstanding.

      FlipC, your comment serves as a prompt to me, to write an article for The Daily Flag that would explain protocol for non US citizens. Thank you again, Deborah

  69. I’m curious… is it acceptable to change or vary the lyrics of the anthem at all? I recently heard it sung where the chorus sang “For the land of the free…” instead of “O’er the land of the free…”

    Is that acceptable…? Just curious.

    1. Hi Austin. No, it’s not acceptable to change the lyrics in the National Anthem.

      We at The Daily Flag are purists when it comes to The National Anthem, and I personally believe that the Star-Spangled Banner should not be “performed” by a soloist, but should always be sung by the entire gathered assembly. E pluribus unum.“Out of many one.” Or—in this case—many voices singing as one voice.

      Here are some other articles at The Daily Flag that you might find interesting.
      The National Anthem—Style over Substance
      Why Dew you mistreat the National Anthem

      Thank you for writing, Austin. Best Wishes, Deborah

  70. Why is it a hat and not your shoes or other apparrel that is to be removed?

    1. Maria, the custom of removing one’s hat as a sign of respect is originated around the same time of knights began wearing armor. A man whose face was obscured by his helmet and visor would tip up his visor so that others could see his face, or remove his helmet so that all could see who he was. The salute evolved from this practice, as did removing a hat, and it was a gesture of honor and respect.

      Thank you for writing. Deborah

  71. At a recent football game, my son insisted that I, his mother, remove my hat. I was certainly not taught to do that; is this a new tradition, or perhaps an overzealous desire to show respect?

    1. Hi Barby,
      I’m glad your son is so conscientious about respect for the flag. However, women are not required to removed their hats during the Pledge of Allegiance, or during the singing of the National Anthem. Here are the citations so you can show him:

      Pledge of Allegiance http://www.flagsbay.com/flag/flag-code/section-4-pledge-of-allegiance-to-the-flag-manner-of-delivery/

      and National Anthem: http://www.flagsbay.com/flag/national-anthem/

      Thank you for writing, and please give your son my kindest regards,
      Deborah Hendrick

  72. What is the proper protocol when a flag is presented at an indoor sporting event by a military honor gaurd. Specifically, after the honor gaurd took their position at half court and the band began to play the National Anthem one team started turning their back to the honor gaurd. This process took about 15 seconds as the word was passed down the line. One of the players indicated that they wanted to turn their backs to the other team. Their was a flag in the top of the arena that they finally faced. This process was obviously distracting and disturbing to me and others in attendance.

    1. Charles, in a situation such as you have described, there is no protocol that permits such ill-considered behavior. All you can do now is write letters: to the local and regional newspapers, the school administration, the coach of the team, and to the team itself. A public shaming seems a good response to a sporting team that thought this action was a good idea. Thank you for writing.

  73. Good morning.
    Is it appropriate to say the Pledge of Allegiance when there is no flag present? It feels very awkward.

    1. This is a good question Joyce, and thank you for asking. In the Flag Code, at Section 4, we find the instructions regarding the Pledge of Allegiance. Quoting exactly, it says:

      Section 4. Pledge of allegiance to the flag; manner of delivery

      The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it
      stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”, should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove any non-religious headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute.

      I added the italics to make it more visible, but the text plainly says, ” … facing the flag … .”

      And veterans are now permitted to salute the flag in all circumstances, which is detailed in The Daily Flag here.

  74. If America the Beautiful is being played at a public event or at a public school prior to the Pledge of Alligiance, should the crowd or students stand and face the flag? I read a number of previous references that you should not salute while it is being played, but should we stand in the same manner of respect as the National Anthem?

    1. America the Beautiful is a greatly beloved patriotic song, but there is no written or historical precedence that accords it the same honors—standing and/or saluting—as the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem. In fact, both the Pledge and the National Anthem should be formally announced so that those in attendance have time to stand, remove head covering, and prepare to salute. (“Would you all stand please, … .”) And no music should accompany the Pledge of Allegiance.

      Thank you for writing, and best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

  75. Well, as a professional musician, I get the Star Spangled Banner requested a lot. It seems
    to me that most people mean well even when they don’t know what to do when it’s played.
    I am under the impression that it goes better when an announcer or host or leader of some type, makes a polite request of the others to do a specific thing or things, e.g. “Ladies and gentlemen, please stand for our national anthem, and remain standing until the colors are
    posted.” I find that guiding people in ceremonies of all types is usually reassuring. Participants even express their appreciation afterwards.

    All the best to my fellow Americans,

    Gordy Coolman

    1. Gordy—we are in agreement on this one. I believe the National Anthem should always be announced before it is performed. If it is not, I think that you as a musician are permitted to kindly and graciously signal those assembled that they should stand.

  76. My friend says that a person must stand when the national anthem is played on TV before a ball game when you are in your house. I say that the protacall states only when you are in public . Thank you for your answer.

    1. Thank you for writing, Gordon. The portion of the U.S. Code that addresses conduct during the National Anthem is in a different section from the Flag Code, and is frequently overlooked. Note the part that I have put in bold print. It says “all present” and I believe that means all who are there in person at that particular moment in time.

      * TITLE 36–PATRIOTIC AND NATIONAL OBSERVANCES, CEREMONIES, AND ORGANIZATIONS
      o SUBTITLE I–PATRIOTIC AND NATIONAL OBSERVANCES AND CEREMONIES
      + PART A–OBSERVANCES AND CEREMONIES
      # CHAPTER 3–NATIONAL ANTHEM, MOTTO, FLORAL EMBLEM, AND MARCH
      * Section 301–National Anthem

      Sec. 301. National anthem

      (a) Designation.–The composition consisting of the words and music
      known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.
      (b) Conduct During Playing.–During a rendition of the national
      anthem–
      (1) when the flag is displayed–
      (A) all present
      except those in uniform should stand at
      attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart;
      (B) men not in uniform should remove their headdress with
      their right hand and hold the headdress at the left shoulder,
      the hand being over the heart; and
      (C) individuals in uniform should give the military salute
      at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until
      the last note; and

      (2) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face
      toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag
      were displayed.

  77. Not Standing During the National Anthem…

    I am not a supporter of any military service or most of the government invovlvement we have in this country. But I stay because of the freedoms I do have (hey look at me a hypocryte). And one of those is not standing for this song I did not choose nor approve of. Would that bother you if we sat near each other?

    1. LilliPop, as long as you were not physically or vocally crude, coarse, and/or vulgar during the playing of the National Anthem, it would not bother me if you sat out the song. I would hope that you would be as polite during the Star-Spangled Banner as you would be during Oh Canada, or God Save the Queen, or any other nation’s national anthem.

  78. The NY Islanders hockey team has been having kids sing God Bless America during one of the intermissions. They announce that the song is being played but people geenrally go about their business while it is being sung. Is this appropriate? Should the team be asking people to stand, etc?

    1. Joe, I don’t know a lot about hockey, but I understand fans—and when the game stops, they want to get out of their seats, go to the restroom, and get more food and drinks. That 20 minute break was designed for the players, not the fans! I don’t know what management could do that would encourage the fans to stop and listen to the kid(s) singing. While God Bless America is one of this country’s favorite patriotic songs, it it not necessary for the audience to stand while it is being performed—that is an honor reserved for the National Anthem.

      I just timed myself singing God Bless America, and including a pretend introduction—and it took well under two minutes. Maybe if one of the Islander players stood on center ice with a hand-held microphone and introduced the child and the song—and then stood there with the little singer—perhaps that would slow the fans down long enough to watch and listen.

      You’re welcome to call the management with my idea! And thank you for writing Joe.

  79. What is the protocol when the Star-Spangled banner is interwoven within another musical work? I recently heard a recording of a piece by Dudley Buck entitled, “Festival Overture on the National Air,” which was obviously based on what we know as the Star-Spangled Banner. I know that Buck passed away before the SSB was officially adopted as the National Anthem, and upon reading online, I’ve come to realize that there are a number of musical works which incorporate some of the strains of the SSB with different interpretations. Is it safe to say that unless the National Anthem is performed as the National Anthem, it’s not?

    1. Christopher—I struggled with your question, wrote several responses and deleted them all. I agree—most cautiously—with your premise: Is it safe to say that unless the National Anthem is performed as the National Anthem, it’s not? But I want to enlarge upon it, so I have decided to write a new article for The Daily Flag, where I will explore your question at length. I probably won’t get it posted until next week, but your question about this particular bit of National Anthem protocol deserves a closer examination. In the meantime, can you provide me with more information about the Dudley Buck recording? I would like to listen to it myself. My email is deborah@flagsbay.com

      Thank you for writing, Christopher.

  80. When should the anthem be preformed? For more clarity, would it be appropriate at school board meetings or city council meetings? Or should it be reserved for events and special gatherings. We already preform the Pledge, followed by a moment of silence.

    1. Robert—this is the question for which there is no definitive answer. All I can speak to is my own personal experience, which is: in smaller, more intimate settings—club meetings, Scout troop meetings, municipal gatherings, and et cetera—generally only the Pledge is recited. Of course the National Anthem could be sung, but not too many people have the poise to stand up and sing (much less conduct) the National Anthem a Capella.

      In larger venues—sporting events, concerts, banquets, large company meetings, and et cetera, normally there will be musical accompaniment for the National Anthem. Certainly the National Anthem could be sung at a school board meeting, or the city council meetings, but the person in charge of the meeting would need to designate someone with a “leadership” voice to start the melody and lead the crowd in unison, or ask a soloist to sing.

      I hope this helps, and thank you for writing. Best Wishes, Deborah

  81. I attended a baseball game the other night at a sports complex. The national anthem was played at the beginning of the game. Everyone stood. In the middle of the 2nd inning, a softball game began on the adjacent field and the national anthem was played again. Baseball play was suspended and everyone turned and stood AGAIN to face the flag on the other field. Really? Is that necessary?

  82. I see that question was aksed previously with no definitive answer. I thought if the anthem was already played once at the venue, it should not be played again for subsequent games. At least that’s the way it has been handled on other occasions at large gyms I’ve been too.

    1. This is a problem without a good solution. Since these games are being played at a multi-field sports complex, playing the National Anthem one time should be sufficient, but the management of the sports complex needs to visit with the referees and coaches to determine the best time to do this.

      Thank you for writing, Maria.

  83. At a Cinco de Mayo celebration at my husband’s school, the Mexican national anthem was played, and the Mexican flag was saluted. Should the Star Spangled Banner and the Pledge of Allegiance have followed, or are we being too picky?

    1. It is the practice of the U.S. State Department to recognize and honor the guests of foreign countries by presenting their flag and national anthem ahead of the U.S. flag and National Anthem. So it was acceptable for the Mexican flag and National Anthem to have been performed first. If there had been a half-dozen foreign countries recognized, they would have gone in alphabetical order (in the English language), and the American flag and national anthem still would have gone last.

      But I don’t want to misunderstand what you wrote. If the American flag was not recognized with a salute, and if the American national anthem was not performed for this school event, then I would consider it a clear breach of customary and traditional protocol.

      Americans do not salute a foreign flag—but stand quietly at attention for both flag and anthem—and a foreigner or alien would behave the same way during the American anthem. (This is sometimes an awkward problem for foreign athletes who play on American teams, who may feel it looks disrespectful to not salute when the Star-Spangled Banner is played—but their only obligation is to stand at attention.) Thank you for writing, Deborah Hendrick

  84. I am a member of my local Civic Band. Yesterday, we played a Memorial Day ceremony for our American Legion. When we played the National Anthem, we remained seated. However, prior to that, when the colors were presented and posted, we were unsure as to whether or not we were supposed to stand. Some band members stood, others did not. What would be appropriate for this situation?

    1. Don, I certainly believe it is appropriate for the band to stand as the colors are presented and posted. But it needs to be coordinated so the band members rise and sit again in unison, and are not straggling up and down. Perhaps one person can be in charge of quietly signaling the band to stand, and then to sit again. There may be veterans in the band who will want to salute the flag with a military salute, while others in the band can do a “heart” salute.

      Normally the “Colors” are introduced by the Master of Ceremonies, so the entire gathering has time to stand. Salutes are rendered when the flag passes abreast of your position. For the band, this may not be as easy as it is for me to write. But in your town, you know the events and venues in which the band will be performing, so you can extrapolate and coordinate that knowledge as needed.

      Thank you for writing, Don. Best Wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  85. I thought that all individuals…male or female…. were to remove their hats, turn to the flag, and place their hand over their heart during the presentation of the Colors and/or the rendition of the National Anthem? Where is it written only males must remove their hats during this ceremony? This is a big controversy at the ball park!!!! I am a female, a proud veteran and am enthusiastic to remove my cap (if I have one on) anytime this important acknowledgement of our nation ia observed.

    1. Thank you for writing, Tammie. You asked, “Where is it written only males must remove their hats during this ceremony?

      The answer is found in the U.S. Code, under Title 36. Title 36 is often overlooked, because what is commonly called the “Flag Code” is found under Title 4.

      Title 36, Chapter 3
      Sec. 301. National anthem

      (a) Designation.–The composition consisting of the words and music
      known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.
      (b) Conduct During Playing.–During a rendition of the national
      anthem–
      (1) when the flag is displayed–
      (A) all present except those in uniform should stand at
      attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart;
      (B) men not in uniform should remove their headdress with
      their right hand and hold the headdress at the left shoulder,
      the hand being over the heart;
      [emphasis mine] and
      (C) individuals in uniform should give the military salute
      at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until
      the last note; and

      (2) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face
      toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag
      were displayed.

      The word “women” is not included in this sentence. Women have never been required to remove their hats during the National Anthem or the Pledge of Allegiance.

      What you may not know Tammie, is that all veterans and all active-duty military personnel may now salute the flag while wearing civilian clothing, regardless of head coverings, whether indoors or outdoors. Before this change in the law, only those in uniform were permitted to render a military style salute. See the article here for more on the change in the law.

      It would be nice if the law that permits veterans and active duty military to salute while wearing civilian clothing could be attached to the appropriate sections elsewhere in the U.S. Code, but that would take another law.

      So a lot more people now are saluting the flag, which would no doubt cause confusion for those who don’t know about the change in the law. I think it would be great if the announcer in these venues (ball parks, for example) could make a short announcement explaining this information. I’m sure a lot of veterans still don’t know that they can now freely salute the flag as desired.

  86. THANK YOU. GOD BLESS AMERICA!

    1. Thank you David. I’m glad you found The Daily Flag. Deborah

  87. At a formal event, Do you salute the flag (Pledge of Alligiance) and then sing the National Anthem? Bother wil be done at this event.

    1. Peggy, the U.S. Code is silent on this particular protocol. By tradition and in my experience, the Pledge is recited first and early in the event. The Master of Ceremonies will introduce the person chosen to lead the Pledge, invite the audience to stand, and all will recite the Pledge, then sit again. The MC then makes a few more remarks, and introduces the person or persons, musicians, etc. who will perform the National Anthem. The audience is again invited to stand while the Anthem is performed.

      On a personal note, permit me to add that I think we all should sing the National Anthem together. That generally requires a person with a strong voice, and enormous poise to “lead” the rest of the assembly. I love a good soloist, but the song was never meant to be a solo. Our voices joined together is far more meaningful and stirring to the soul.

  88. Deborah-
    Isn’t there a difference between InDoors & Out when it comes to the Military-not-in-uniform & Veterans saluting? At Air Force ceremonies InDoors, Members in Uniform stand at attention; civilians are instructed to place the right hand over the heart. Do Military-not-in-uniform & Veterans have the option of saluting InDoors?

    1. Dear Mr. Lewis—-A change to Section 9 of the US Flag Code, written into the Defense Authorization Act of 2008, gave veterans and members of the US Armed Forces the authority to render a hand salute to the flag, whether or not in uniform. This law was subsequently amended to include all occasions when the flag would be saluted, which (apparently, in practice) includes saluting the flag indoors.

      When this change in the law was first made public, I assumed—and recommended—that active duty military personnel and veterans would follow the same guidelines they’d previously used (as active duty personnel) about saluting the flag indoors. However, that was not made clear or specified in the law—in practice, that particular rule of protocol seems to no longer apply to active duty military or veterans. The result is that veterans and active duty military are free to render a military salute indoors or outdoors, covered or uncovered, in uniform or in civilian clothing.

      Dismayed that Congress would nullify centuries of tradition, the Navy and Marine Corps issued their own opinions and instructions about saluting the flag, that contradict the law passed by Congress.

      I wrote about this change in the law at length in The Daily Flag here: Veterans salute the flag—clarifying the change in the U.S. Code

      This article is one of my “most read” postings, and it has been widely quoted, copied, and referenced at other websites (including an official U.S. Army web site). But my opinion and what I wrote is far less important than what the comments reveal. I encourage you to read this other article, and especially the comments that follow. They are an education.

      Thank you for writing, and Best Wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  89. So, during a sporting event when there are teams from two different countries. whose anthem is played first? Does it matter if the league has designated the “home” team as the “away” team because the game is a make up of one that was supposed to take place in the other country?

    Frank

    1. Hi Frank—The U.S. State Department, which determines the standards for protocol and etiquette between the United States and foreign countries, says that on the occasions when the national anthems of a foreign country and the U.S. are both played (regardless of the occasion—it could be a ball at the White House or a ball game), then the national anthem of the other country is played first, and the national anthem of the U.S. is played last. If there were multiple anthems, the American anthem would still play last.
      Thank you for writing, and Best Wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  90. I was very offended today when my place of employment used the National Anthem as part of a looped sound track for a public event. It was used as background noise for carnival type activities. Is there any code enforcement of Title 36, or any coercive measures that can be taken to insure that the Anthem is only played in an environment where ceremony and honors can be rendered?

    1. Oh Mike—what a terrible situation. There is no code enforcement that would prevent this from happening. Those who wrote Title 36 and codified the “law” assumed that Americans of good will and honor would follow the law, and render the proper the respect for the National Anthem. It will be hard to find who created the sound track—this person may not know that using the National Anthem this way is an egregious breech of protocol and etiquette. But you can contact the person who made the decision to use this sound track, and those in leadership at your place of employment. A letter to the editor of your local newspaper could also be effective. Chances are—you are not the only one who was offended. Good luck, Deborah Hendrick

  91. Have you ever heard of people standing for the National Anthem when at a Sports Bar and a ball game is shown on TV? These people who stand think those who do not stand are unpatriotic. Is it ignorance of flag protocol to stand or is it ignorance to not stand?

    1. The general protocol is to stand in the actual presence of the flag. If you were watching a sporting event on television, you would not be in the actual presence of the flag being displayed at the sporting event. However, if there were a U.S. flag on display in the sports bar, then it certainly would be acceptable for Americans to stand and salute the flag. I would imagine that those watching a ball game in a sports bar would be in high spirits, and I can understand why they would want everyone to stand (especially if residing in a foreign country), but it would be an individual choice.

  92. I should add to the above comment – this is in a foreign country.

  93. Here in Pensacola, FL the US Navy plays the Anthem at morning colors at both Corry Field and NAS Pensacola over loud speakers. They are BIG speakers and the Anthem can be heard for well over a mile away, well off base. I play tennis at a club a mile or so from Corry Field where you can hear the Anthem being played. Should play stop and everyone stand at attention? Some do but most don’t. It seems that since we are not anywhere near the flag we should continue play.

    1. I apologize Bob, for the delay in answering your question. Since the National Anthem is being played specifically for the military personnel on the bases, and considering the distance you are from the flag and not on the base, I think it is permissible for you to continue with your tennis game. Thank you for writing, and best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  94. Your site is very interesting and I thank you for your time. I am a teacher who organizes activities in school and sometimes I am challenged by protocols.

    Question 1. What is performed first the anthem or the pledge?
    what document supports that.
    2. ARE WE OK IF WE JUST DO THE PLEDGE AND NOT THE ANTHEM OR THIS IS DEPENDING ON THE CEREMONY?
    THANK YOU.

    1. Thank you for writing, Gregorio. There are no set rules found in the U.S. Code that tell us how, when, and where we should recite the Pledge of Allegiance, or sing the National Anthem. In smaller settings, such as club meetings and class rooms, usually people just recite the Pledge. Most of us feel shy about singing the National Anthem without musical accompaniment, so we sing the Anthem in larger groups (auditoriums, stadiums, etc.) when we have a “leader” to conduct us, or at the least a piano accompaniment.

      You are free to use the Pledge or the Anthem in whatever way you’d like.

      Thank you and best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

  95. Our City Council meetings are preceeded by an invocation and the pledge of allegiance. When the Council turns to face the flag, we have one elected official that crosses both arms in front of his chest, puts his head down and utters not a word of the pledge. Is there an acceptable reason for behavior such as this?

    1. Mr. Burch, it is certainly perplexing behavior. But no one is obligated to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or salute the flag, and he apparently chooses not to participate. Crossing his arms over his chest and bowing his head seem more symbolic than merely remaining silent, so I suspect he has strong feelings about it. Also, some religious denominations do not recite the Pledge as a practice of their church.

      Thank you for writing, and Best Wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

  96. You may have answered this already but this has been bothering me. I’ve been to a few sporting events and the song God bless America was played. Most people stood and the men removed their hats and placed it over their hearts, I did not because the National Anthem is the ONLY song to SALUTE when being played. AM I correct.

    1. David, you are absolutely correct.

  97. I just wanted to say thanks for the research on protocol. A friend is running a fund raising event tomorrow and was panicking because she did not have a flag. I googled, found you and put her at ease. At least we will be singing the anthem. These days that alone is a huge accomplishment!!

  98. Thanks for a thorough review of flag and national anthem protocol. As a veteran it is nice to know that I can render a military salute while in civilian clothes though others at the football game may wonder. I agree the audience should sing the national anthem as I do, but think it may be easier with hand on heart than with a military salute (not used to doing the latter).
    With much appreciation.

    PS. it’s redundant to say “and et cetera” since “et” is Latin for “and”. 🙂

    1. Duly noted, Bob. Thanks for writing.

  99. Do you pledge allegiance to the flag before or after the anthem?

    1. The U.S. Code does not elaborate on this question. It depends on the circumstances, Susie. If a Color Guard brings in the Colors, then it seems very natural to recite the pledge while they are still holding the flags, then post them. The National Anthem can follow after brief remarks or whatever is appropriate to the program. But there is no rule to cover this situation. Thank you for writing. Deborah Hendrick

  100. Hoping this gets answered early in the morning. Does anyone know the proper order for playing the national anthem and a state song? I know all other countries national anthems will be played prior to the US anthem, but what about that pesky state song?

    Thanks much.

    1. Hi Bill—play the National Anthem first, state song second. Best Wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  101. Is there a protocol as to whether the invocation or the pledge of allegiance is said first during a program. I have been told that it should be “God before country” so the invocation must be said first. Is this true?

    1. Dottie, there is nothing in the Flag Code that lays out any order for the Invocation, the Pledge of Allegiance, or the National Anthem. It is up to individuals and groups to determine their own “protocols” for these.

  102. Thank you so much!!! It’s wonderful having a place to go that has researched various flag etiquette problems. Thank you for the effort you have put into this blog to make programs and events easier (and more correct) for the organizers, so we can feel that we have done the right thing. dottie

  103. Help! Curious. Nobody but me seems to notice the visiting team in a lot of sporting events do no put their hand over their heart during the national anthem when both are American Teams. Why is this?

    1. I don’t have an explanation, Laura. Just bad manners, I guess. Thank you for writing. Best Wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  104. I am the director of a popular senior citizens’ choir and we have been asked to perform at the opening ceremonies for a senior olympics. We will do a 15-minute program to include the National Anthem. Where do we put it–last, first in between?

    1. Dear Mr. Carden,
      By tradition, the National Anthem is performed first, and it is usually “introduced” so those in attendance have time to stand, and prepare to salute (hand to brow, or hand over heart). The National Anthem is performed alone, and is never combined with other songs, not even patriotic ones.
      Thank you for writing, and Best Wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  105. I am a Girl Scout leader for a troop of 2nd graders. Our school will be receiving a very prestigious National Award (we are one of 250 Elementary Schools in the country receiving this) and are planning an award ceremony at the school. My Brownies have been requested to perform a Flag Ceremony to open the afternoon. The Pledge will be recited and the chorus will sing the Anthem. Can you help me with the proper order of events?

    Color guard enters room and walks up center aisle.
    Color guard presents colors (dips American Flag slightly)
    Pledge
    Color guard posts colors (in stands on stage)
    Color guard returns to their position (in front of the chorus)
    Color guard dismissed
    National Anthem

    Thanks!!

    1. Leslie, I am delighted to learn that a Brownie troop has been invited to present the Colors for a school event. Because the U.S. Flag Code is silent on the order of protocol for events such as this, we must look to traditional and historical precedence, and military protocol, too. The order of protocol you have described is fine.

      However, I am confused and concerned that the American flag would be “dipped.” Perhaps you were given misinformation, or misunderstood this bit of protocol, but the U.S. Flag is never dipped—-not to anyone or anything.

      Here is a link to the entire, official U.S. Flag Code.
      It includes all citations, annotations, historical references, changes, updates, et cetera. If you will scroll down (it’s a long way) to Section 8, you will find that it reads:

      Sec. 8. Respect for flag

      -STATUTE-
      No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of
      America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing.
      Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional
      flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.

      You may be using an abbreviated version of the Flag Code with the Brownies, which is perfectly understandable. Rarely does any organization print the whole document. However, I encourage you to take the time to print out the entire U.S. Flag Code—it’s about 20 pages long at standard margins, font size, and so on. It is an amazing document, and will answer questions you didn’t know you had.

      Information regarding our National Anthem is found in a different section of the U.S. Code, which means it it often overlooked because it is not with (what is commonly called) the Flag Code. It is here, and is good information to keep at hand.

      Thank you for writing, and congratulations to the school for this award.

      Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  106. It has become norm for schools to “skip” the teaching of patriotism. How can our children of modern day know to respect the flag, National Anthem, and our brave military if they are not taught? I think every school in the US should have a mandated course in citizenship. Thanks to the girl and boy scout leaders who give of their time and talents to train these young people how to do so many things, not the least of these, to be patriotic to this great country we call America.

  107. For all American Patriots I emplore you to take a few minutes of your time and listen to a very short skit on the Pledge of Allegience that he did before a gorup of fourth graders. It is what America is all about and if you are sincere it will bring tears to your eyes as it did mine:
    Google: “Red Skelton” and then click on to “Pledge of Allegiance”. It is awesome.

  108. Years ago I learned a protocol for the absence of a flag. The pledge was said while facing north. Now I’m unable to find this anywhere. What has become of this idea? I believe this was in a Girl Scout handbook.

    1. I have never heard of facing north to say the pledge, in the absence of the flag, and I wasn’t a Girl Scout—so this is very new information to me. It was never a part of the U.S. Code (and the Flag Code) that I know of. But it’s interesting, and I’ll ask around. Thank you for writing, and Best Wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  109. Does anyone know if there is any difference in the protocol for indoors rather than outside.

    1. The flag might be on the flag pole, such as in a stadium, but the order of events would stay the same. In a smaller venue, such as a gym, the audience should salute when the Color Guard passes by and stay standing until the Colors are posted. But the other events would be about the same. For civilians, there is not a fixed order of events. Thank you for writing, Will. Best Wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  110. I would like to know the protocol for spectators of an outdoor sporting event, when a military Honor Guard presents the colors. Most everyone seems to know to stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart (with deviations by military members) during the national anthem; however, very few know the protocol for when the Honor Guard presents the colors. Many veterans will remain standing at attention until the flag is out of sight. At what point should fans relax and begin talking? Any idea where this can be found?

    1. Eddie, that’s a good question. The Flag Code is silent on this bit of protocol.

      Unfortunately, too many fans start cheering before the end of the National Anthem, which saddens me enormously. However, civilians are not the same as military personnel (who have specific instructions and follow orders). But if veterans will continue to stand at attention, and remain silent while the Color Guard departs the field–and teach their children to do the same–maybe the practice will spread.

      Thank you for writing, and Best Wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  111. What should foreign civilians do when the National Anthem is played. My father and I were(are) Soldiers and my mother is a german citizen. She always feels awkward when the National Anthem is played because she is uncertain of what exactly she should do. I know military members render proper honors for foreign national anthems, but what about citizens of other coutries when our national anthem is played??

    1. During the National Anthem (and the Pledge of Allegiance, too) a foreign citizen should simply stand at attention, with arms at sides. Thank you for writing Marcus. Best Wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  112. I was at a town sponsored music event. The US flag was not present. At the end of the concert the band asked everyone to stand and sing the national anthem while they played it.

    My questions:
    Should have there been a flag on the stage (it was a portable stage)?
    Is it improper to sing the national anthem at the end of their concert? It was the closing song?
    Before playing the national anthem they said the pledge of allegiance What is the protoccol if there is no flag?

    Thanks for your website and clarifying the issues.

    1. It would have been better if the flag had been there, but things do go wrong. I am inclined to think it was an accident. It is certainly permissible to sing the National Anthem without a flag being present. While the National Anthem is generally performed at the beginning of an event, there are no precise instructions in the U.S. Code that tell us when we should sing the National Anthem (only for conduct during: stand and face the flag, salute as appropriate—hand or heart). If there is not a flag present, we are told to face the direction of the music do the same as if there were a flag there. I have often thought that singing the National Anthem at the end of an event might be a nice way to end the program, and send us all home in a more neighborly spirit, but I’ve never been at an occasion where that happened.

      As for the Pledge of Allegiance—according the the Flag Code, the pledge is recited while facing the flag. The code does not make a provision for the flag not being present like it does for the National Anthem. A strict interpretation of the Flag Code, would by default indicate that it is against protocol to recite the Pledge of Allegiance without a flag present.

      Good questions, Sandy. Thank you for writing, and best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  113. Recently (4th of July) at a firework display I was amazed of too many people not standing while the National Anthem was playing. ONe of the reasons was that the Anthem was playing right in the middle of the show. It was just one more song of many patriotic and non-patriotic songs. I felt that it was a lack of respect. In my opinion, it should had played at the beginning or at the end of the program. Thus people could stand up to show respect to the Anthem. What is the protocol of playing and paying respect to the Anthem?

    1. There is nothing in the U.S. Code that tells us where or when we should sing or play the National Anthem—only how. We are instructed that we should stand, salute as appropriate (hand or heart), and face the flag. If there is not a flag present, we are told to turn in the direction of the music. Traditionally, the National Anthem is played at the beginning of an event, and it should be announced, so that people do have time to stand and prepare themselves for the Anthem, but it could be done at the end, as long as those gathered know that it is coming. The National Anthem should never be combined in a medley of songs, but is always performed as a single event.

      The event you attended was very poorly planned, and I hope you will try to contact those who planned the event to voice your concern. And it’s never too late to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.

      Thank you for writing. Deborah Hendrick

  114. I know that when two national anthems are performed in the US, it is customary to play the other national anthem, followed by the Star Spangled Banner. Our band routinely includes the State Song. Any suggestion on the protocol for order of performance?

    We are planning the performance in this order:

    Montana State Song
    Oh Canada
    Star Spangled Banner

    1. Hi Warren. I did see your other post, but will respond here.

      Correct. The anthems of “guest” countries are played before the U.S. national anthem. If there were more than one country present, the anthems would be played in English alphabetical order by country. State songs are played after our National Anthem, and if there were more than one state song to be played, those songs would be played in the order that the states came into the Union.

      So the proper order for your band to play the songs would be, Canada, U.S., Montana state song.

      This was an important question, and thank you for writing. Best Wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  115. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 contained an amendment to allow un-uniformed servicemembers, military retirees, and veterans to render a hand salute during the hoisting, lowering, or passing of the U.S. flag.

    A later amendment further authorized hand-salutes during the national anthem by veterans and out-of-uniform military personnel. This was included in the Defense Authorization Act of 2009, which President Bush signed on Oct. 14, 2008.

    Here is the actual text from the law:

    SEC. 595. MILITARY SALUTE FOR THE FLAG DURING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM
    BY MEMBERS OF THE ARMED FORCES NOT IN
    UNIFORM AND BY VETERANS.

    Section 301(b)(1) of title 36, United States Code, is amended by
    striking subparagraphs (A) through (C) and inserting the following new
    subparagraphs:
    “(A) individuals in uniform should give the
    military salute at the first note of the anthem and
    maintain that position until the last note;
    “(B) members of the Armed Forces and veterans who
    are present but not in uniform may render the military
    salute in the manner provided for individuals in
    uniform; and
    “(C) all other persons present should face the flag
    and stand at attention with their right hand over the
    heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should
    remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it
    at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart;

    Note: Part (C) applies to those not in the military and non-veterans. The phrase “men not in uniform” refers to civil service uniforms like police, fire fighters, and letter carriers – non-veteran civil servants who might normally render a salute while in uniform.

  116. My 2 youngest children (16-yr old twins) just started their Junior year at a large HS and are in different classrooms all day. At 2nd Period (Homeroom) general announcements are made over all loudspeakers, including the Pledge of Allegiance. It has been the norm that students and teachers do whatever they want during the announcements and pledge, such as talk and go on about their business, or stand and recite the pledge. Mostly, only a few kids recite the pledge, including my kids. (At least one classroom is an exception, where the teacher is in the Air National Guard, and requires everyone to stand and be silent, but none of my kids have been in his class). My 2 older kids, now in college, said it was that way for them also. A difference now is that that year the pledge is announced, minus “..one Nation under God.” This irritates my kids, but no else appears to care or notice. Is this modification of the pledge legal? Do we have any firm basis to object and compel more respect for the pledge and citizenship?

    1. Thank you for writing, Des. At the bottom of this comment, I will include the links to two documents—an overview, and the entire March 2010 ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Count of Appeals regarding the Pledge of Allegiance and the words “one Nation under God.”

      Briefly (my words), the Court said that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is a patriotic exercise, and the inclusion of the words “one Nation under God” does not turn it into a religious activity. No student can be prevented from saying the Pledge, nor are the words “one Nation under God” to be excised from the Pledge.
      However, no student is compelled to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, or is compelled to say the words “one Nation under God” while reciting the rest of the Pledge.

      In my opinion, your children’s high school seriously violates the ruling by not including and reciting the words “one Nation under God” when it “announces” the Pledge over the school’s loudspeakers. It is not the school’s right to delete “one Nation under God” —that is a decision and right exclusive to the students.

      Moreover, the portion of the U.S. Code that contains what we commonly call the “Flag Code” (Title 4, Chapter 1) that pertains to the Pledge of Allegiance has not been changed. It was assumed by those who wrote and codified the Flag Code, that people of honor and good will would voluntarily follow the Code, but no one can be compelled by law to do so. In this regard, I think the school fails in setting a minimum standard of respect by not encouraging or even insisting that disinterested students and faculty at least be quiet while the Pledge of Allegiance is being recited. Are there other events at school where members of the faculty and student body are purposely disrespectful, and it’s condoned by the administration?

      So the answer to your question is Yes. You have a ruling from U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on your side. You get to object to the way the Pledge of Allegiance is being disrespected each day, and you have the right to insist that the school include “one Nation under God” when it broadcasts the Pledge of Allegiance each morning at school.

      How you proceed is important. Personally, I’d go straight to the top officials, and ask for a meeting with the Superintendent of Schools, and the school’s legal counsel (who is no doubt aware of the ruling). If you can’t get any action from them, then request a slot on the next public school board meeting. Go to your newspaper and ask to speak to the reporter who covers school news, and explain the situation. Your state’s education code, which you should be able to find in your county’s law library, should state what it requires of the school systems when it comes to teaching good citizenship. It may be written at length and in great detail, or it may be purposely vague, which permits enormous latitude for the individual school districts in your state. But you should be able to determine precisely what your school is supposed to do regarding citizenship education and remind the educators of their responsibility.

      I hope you will send me note when all this is sorted out. I am pleased that you and your kids want to do the right thing.

      Best Wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

      This is the overview: http://undergod.procon.org/view.additional-resource.php?resourceID=003674

      This is the entire document (193 pages) in PDF, which I encourage you to print out and read so there are no surprises:
      http://undergod.procon.org/sourcefiles/9thcircuitrulingMar_2010.pdf

  117. I am in my early 60’s and when I was in grammar school, everyday we recited the pledge of allegience and put our right hand over our heart. Then we sang the national anthem and put our hands at our sides. Our hand was never over our heart while we were singing. So can you tell me when this protocol changed, or was I and everyone that I went to school with, all in my generation and my parents generation misinformed as to what we should have been doing? I look around today and find many people that do not put their hand over their heart during the singing of National Anthem. These people are generally of my age, some older and some younger, but generally of my age group.

    1. Hi Mitzi—thank you for writing. You are not alone in your confusion.

      And here is how it happened: the protocol for the Pledge of Allegiance is found in what we commonly call the Flag Code, which is a part of the U.S. Code (our entire collection of American law). The Flag Code is found in Title 4, Chapter 1 of the U.S. Code, and here is a link to the entire “Flag Code” with all the amendments, sources, citations, et cetera. It is well worth printing out and reading. It’s a fascinating slice of American history. But the Flag Code does not address the National Anthem.

      The protocol for the National Anthem
      is found in Title 36, Chapter 3, a completely different section of the U.S. Code from where the “Flag Code” is found, and as a result, it is often completely overlooked. And here is the link to the National Anthem portion of the code. Which I encourage you to print out and read at your leisure. The advantage to reading the entire document is so you can see all the dated citations that show when the original legislative action was taken. The original statute dates from 1931.

      It is my habit and preference to always refer to the original government document because nothing is left out. I appreciate all the private organizations that offer streamlined and simplified versions the Flag Code, and the National Anthem Code, (I have done it on my own website) but too often someone will cherry pick the Flag Code (for example) to make a point, when reading the entire Code and citations would reveal a larger picture.

      Thank you again Mitzi for writing. This is such a good question, and I wish schools and other organizations would take the time to explain that the National Anthem is not part of the Flag Code, but has its own protocol and etiquette.

      Best Wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  118. I have a question regarding hat etiquette for non-military band members who are actually performing the National Anthem. (Such as at a football game, where a flag is usually on display.) My own high school and university band were taught that it is proper protocol to remain in full band uniform, including any appropriate headgear that is normally worn with the uniform while we are actually performing the National Anthem. It is impractical to follow the precise wording of 36 U.S.C. Sec. 301 which says that “individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position…” because band members are playing their instruments, and the drum major is conducting.

    Obviously we want to be appropriate and respectful. Is it proper procedure for a civilian band to remain in full uniform, including headgear, while actually performing the national anthem? If we happen to be the visiting band, the normal instruction is that we are to stand at attention, likewise in full uniform, and the drum major normally renders the salute. Please note that holding both instrument and hats in strict accordance with the Code can be nearly impossible for some band members.

    Are these the proper procedures for a civilian ensemble to observe? I suspect that your answer might similarly apply to other “civilian but uniformed” groups, such as scouts in uniform.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Lee,

      Your question is a good one. And you have been properly instructed. The members of the band do not need to remove their head coverings, and/or salute while playing the National Anthem. Standing, sitting, inside or out—they are exempt. And as a guest band, while another band is playing the National Anthem, the band needs to stand at attention, and the drum major will render honors for the entire company.

      Thank you writing, and best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  119. As a softball team, we are concerned about proper protocol during the playing of the national anthem with the flag present. We are in uniform, but not military uniform. Should we then place our caps on our left shoulder with right hand over the heart? We also assume retired military or veterans in our group may use the military salute if desired. Is that right? What do big-league ball teams do?

    1. Hi Don. Major league players, and ball players all the way down the line, render honors to the flag by holding their ball caps up to the left shoulder with their right hand. There may be military veterans within the ranks of the ball clubs, but I don’t know of any at present—and that strikes me as a story that would be well-known if there were any military veterans playing in the major or minor league teams. Certainly the veterans in your group may render a military salute if they want, or they can use a heart salute. It’s their choice. Thank you for writing; it was a good question. Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  120. Hello I work at a retail store and patriotic music is being played in honor of veterens day. This is awsome and I’m proud to work for a company that does this. But I have a question; in the rotation of songs the Star Spangled Banner plans in different renditions. So far its been a piano ballad, acapella, and what might be the marine corp band. So can the be the Anthem be played as backgroud music? I feel the Anthem should be reserved to be played only when people can devote full attention to it.

    1. AAARRRGGGHHH! Hi Michael. Oh dear. I hate it when this happens. You are right to be concerned. Our National Anthem—aka The Star-Spangled Banner—is a stand alone musical event, and should never be combined with other patriotic melodies. And you are correct: the National Anthem should only be played when it can be the star attraction, when all present can stand and salute (either a heart salute or a military salute).

  121. I have a question similar to Mr. Stevens. I am a veteran and part of a group that will make a special performance tomorrow in honor of Veterans Day. Those of us in the group who are Veteran’s have been asked to wear our uniforms provided they still fit. As a part of this group made up of mostly civilians and a few former military, what is proper both during the posting of the colors and while we sing the national anthem? (We dont have Mr Stevens’ problem of what to do with our instruments since our instrument is our voice). Should we render the hand salute for the posting then drop the salute and remain at attention while singing? That seems the most “natural”, but may be our chorusmaster should “salute” for us as a group during the posting. Thanks for the help.

    1. Hi Jennifer. Veterans should salute the Colors as appropriate when the Color Guard passes. After the Colors are posted, those involved in the performance of the National Anthem are not required to salute during the anthem. And you probably know, but regarding veterans fitting into their uniforms—-all veterans and all active duty military personnel are permitted to salute the flag, and salute during the National Anthem regardless of what they are wearing, covered or uncovered, indoors or out side. Thank you for writing, Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  122. My question:
    When the Pledge of Allegiance is being said at a group function, such as a patriotic program, should the audience be asked NOT to say the Pledge so another group can recite the Pledge alone? It only seems right to me, that EVERY member present should be allowed to say the Pledge and no one should be asked or told to remain silent while others recite it. Is this disrespectful? Can you provide me with a code or something that proves or disproves this point? Thank you for your help.

    1. What a disappointing incident. It sounds like someone was clumsy and thoughtless in planning the program you attended, and unfamiliar with the Flag Code. Of course, every one should be permitted to recite the pledge. In the Flag Code (read it here), the only ones specifically asked to remain silent and NOT recite the Pledge of Allegiance are members of the military (who render a military salute during the Pledge). No reason is given for this, but members of the military take an oath that historically predates the Pledge of Allegiance, and is substantially more comprehensive.

      Thank you for writing, Dede Anne.
      Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  123. We do a flag retirement ceremony with the scouts on Flag Day, June 14th each year. Our custom in retiring tattered and torn flags is to burn the ‘Blue Field’ first. Once the ‘Blue Field’ has been burnt, it is no longer a ‘flag’ and the rest of the stripes are dropped in the fire. Can’t find that in the Flag Code. Is that the correct way to retire worn and tattered flags?
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Len, Thank you for writing. You’ve hit on one of my tender spots with this question.

      Regarding the retirement of a flag, the only thing the Flag Code says is found at Sec. 8. Respect for flag (k) The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning. And it says “preferably,” recognizing that there may be occasions when burning is not the best way. (I am in Texas, and most of the state has been under a burn ban for a year.) And that’s it. We are left on our own to figure out the best way to do this.

      We know from the rest of the Flag Code, that in all things, respect for the flag comes first. So in what ever way we choose to retire the flag, it should always be done with respect. Sometimes people use the occasion to teach a bit of history about the flag, or talk about moments in American history where the flag featured prominently. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what you say, or if you don’t say anything at all.

      We have this idea that a flag retirement should be conducted by someone official, in a ceremony—conducted by the Boy Scouts, or a veterans service organization like the American Legion, or the VFW. Still all good, but anyone can retire a flag. I’d do my own if I had a suitable venue (and someday I will, if I ever get to build my own house, or at least landscape a large back yard so I can have the perfect fire pit.)

      I have read of retirement ceremonies where the flag is taken apart, and then the parts are burned. Personally, I don’t see the purpose in this. If taking the blue field out of the flag makes it no longer a flag, then what purpose is served by burning something that is no longer a flag? And I have read about a group of volunteers in New England who greet flights of returning soldiers (truly a splendid, wonderful welcome home) and giving them a star cut out of a no-longer-serviceable flag ( whose remains presumably are then retired). It is a touching and patriotic thing to do, but the reason for retiring the flag was to keep it from being used for something else, even the stars I suppose.

      A few years ago, I attended a flag retirement ceremony at a VFW post in my area. I counted flags to about 60 and then gave up—and when I finally left two hours later, left the men were still laying flags in the fire. It would have been impossible for them to have taken the flags apart first. And it made me very sad to watch them place beautiful un-faded (and only recently unfolded) casket flags in the fire. But that was not their decision, to choose which flags should be retired and which should not. Their obligation was to retire the flags that had been given to them for that purpose.

      I have asked how the military retires flags, but never got an answer. I need to follow up on that, and ask again. But it doesn’t matter. As long as it is done respectfully, that is right way to do it. Are you familiar with the story of Dallas veteran Daniel Walker? He retrieved and saved the remains of a flag that was being burned in a protest. He could not bring himself to retire the the remnants of the flag by burning them again, so he the remains with honors in the garden at his house. It would be a good story to share with Boy Scouts, since we never know when choosing to do the honorable thing may arise, like it did for Mr. Walker.

      I am providing the links to the entire Flag Code, from a federal web site, and also the portion of the U.S. Code that addresses the National Anthem, which is located in a separate site from the Flag Code. I like the official links because they include all amendments, citations, references, dates, et cetera. These are historical documents in their own right, and I think everyone should have a copy, if you want to print them out.

      Flag Code: http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/04C1.txt
      National Anthem: http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/36C3.txt

      I hope this helps. Thank you for writing.
      Best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

  124. This is similar to the baseball question. I have noticed that many high school football teams simply stand facing the flag holding their helmet by their side, including my son’s team. When I asked him about it, my son said he was actually instructed not to put his hand over his heart. Each player is simply to hold his helmet with his left hand by his side and leaves the right hand by his right side. Is there some football player code involved here? Thanks for any feedback.

    1. Hi Jeff. I have never heard of a “football code.” It makes me think that the coach has never read the etiquette and protocol for the National Anthem. Certainly approaching your son’s coach is akin to a diplomatic mission, but it might be a real kindness if you could. You could talk to the school principal, or school board and superintendent, but that makes it public, which is unnecessary.

      Here is a link to the portion of the U.S. Code that addresses the National Anthem: http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/36C3.txt
      And what we call the Flag Code—which includes instruction for the Pledge of Allegiance—is found here: http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/04C1.txt

      Good luck, Jeff. This is kinda tough, but your son and the other players cannot be prevented from saluting the flag with a “heart salute” during the National Anthem. They also cannot be forced to salute either, but that is another discussion.

      Best Wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  125. Thanks for the information and the advice. Hopefully, I can get the coach’s ear and get the practice changed.
    Jeff

  126. I understand that uniformed Sailors and Marines do not salute
    (military salute) with their covers removed.

    If uniformed Naval service military personnel are attending a formal civilian meeting where
    the Pledge of Allegiance is being recited, do they still render a military salute to the flag
    even tho their covers are removed because they are indoors?

    What about Soldiers, Airmen, and Coast Guardsmen?

    1. Notwithstanding the changes in the U.S. Flag Code that permit “uncovered” and “out-of-uniform” active-duty military personnel to salute the flag—

      You are correct Zen, that Sailors and Marines do not salute with their covers removed, which means they do not salute indoors because they always remove their head covering if they are inside. Army and Air Force personnel do not have to take off their covers when they go inside, and thus are permitted to salute indoors. I do not know about the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard uses the Navy’s flag manual, but the CG is an old service, and surely has many historic and traditional practices that are unique unto themselves.

      So then, how should any uniformed, but bare-headed military personnel react during the Pledge of Allegiance as it is recited by civilians? It is a judgement call, I think. But surely there can be no criticism if the military personnel in question do not salute, as that would be the strictest interpretation of the regulations.

      Thank you for writing Zen.
      Best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

  127. Deborah, I am thouroughly enjoying your blog. A couple of notes below may help answer some of the questions brought up. The references are older, but I know of no newer revisions.

    AR 670-1, Chap 1, Sec 10 (k) 2 says:
    “Soldiers will not wear headgear indoors unless under arms in an official capacity, or when directed by the commander, such as for indoor ceremonial activities.” This is dated Feb 2005.

    AR 600-25 (Sep 83) says:
    1–11. Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
    a. The Pledge of Allegiance is not recited in military formations or in military ceremonies.
    b. At protocol functions, social, and sporting events which include civilian participants, military personnel should—
    (1) When in uniform outdoors, stand at attention, remain silent, face the flag, and render the hand salute.
    (2) When in uniform indoors, stand at attention, remain silent, and face the flag. The hand salute is not rendered. Where the participants are primarily civilians or in civilian attire, reciting the pledge is optional for those in uniform.
    (3) When in civilian attire, recite the pledge while standing at attention, facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. Men should remove headdress with the right hand and hold it over the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.

    Chap 1 Sec 3-A says: Personnel will not salute indoors except when reporting to a superior officer.

    And finally, Appendix A says:
    In general, to render honors: If indoors, stand at attention except when reporting to a superior. If outdoors, execute the hand salute when in uniform or by placing the right hand over the heart when in civilian clothes.
    When ceremonies (excluding military funerals) are being conducted, moving vehicles will be brought to a halt. On buses and trucks,only the senior will dismount and render appropriate courtesy. Passengers and drivers of other vehicles will dismount and render the appropriate courtesy.

    Table A says: Military personnel and civilians in civilian dress without headdress, Female personnel (military and civilian) with headdress, Personnel engaged in sports and attired
    in a sport uniform without headdress: When Colors are within six paces: If outdoors,
    stand at attention with right hand over heart; if indoors, stand at attention… Hold this position until Colors have passed six paces.

    1. Oh David, thank you so much. I think all my links are old or broken, so your information is greatly appreciated. As you can see, I haven’t posted anything in a long time. (I took time off to write a book, and I DID write a book, just not the one I’d planned to write.) So often I get questions that I just can’t answer, but you have covered a wealth of information here, and I know all who read here will learn something.

      Thank you again, and Best Wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  128. I am looking for an answer. I was recently told by a school administrator that it is improper to say the pledge of allegiance and sing the national anthem. I do this every day with my 4k class. Is this improper?

    Thanks for a quick response!
    I was hoping that my students could present to the school this Friday.

    1. Stephanie—you have left out some information, so I don’t quite understand your circumstances. It is never improper for students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the National Anthem. However, some schools prefer that the students themselves lead the Pledge of Allegiance because it contains the word “God,” which they fear will appear to be an endorsement of religion. If the students themselves, volunteer to lead the Pledge or the National Anthem, then there is no endorsement by the school.

      I hope this helps. Please phone me at 830-899-4464 if you have more questions. Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  129. Interesting blog, and you are doing a great service with it. I have “always” heard — and I believe that I read, but can’t find it now — that when offering opening ceremonies at a civic event, where there is a prayer, the singing of the National Anthem, and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, they are done in that order. Now someone is questioning me about an “official” citation for the Anthem before the Pledge (there seems to be no question about God before Country.)

    Thanks.

    1. Hi Kay, thank you for writing.

      I would love to see that “official” citation that says the National Anthem comes before the Pledge of Allegiance. The fact is, there is no official rule. While the U.S. Code DOES tell us how to behave (our personal comportment) during the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem, we are NOT instructed in any way about when, where, or the order in which they should recited or played. The two events are not even connected in the U.S. Code. The Pledge of Allegiance is found in the sections that we call the “Flag Code,” and the information about the National Anthem has its own section in the U.S. Code (where it is often overlooked).

      The Flag Code (which includes the Pledge) is found here: http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/04C1.txt
      National Anthem Code is found here: http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/36C3.txt

      Let me suggest that you print out these two annotated documents for your personal reference (and defense, as need be). There is a wealth of information found in them, and I personally consider them historic American documents.

      There may be innumerable private, civic, or VSOs (veterans service organizations) that have instructions regarding the order of prayer, pledge, and anthem, but there is not an official “government” order. We do many things out of habit and tradition, and I am not knocking habit and tradition, but Americans need to be careful and recognize that we have enormous liberty and freedom to order these events to as we wish. I have often thought that saying the Pledge of Allegiance at the end of a meeting would be a wonderful way to send us back out into the world—a sort of patriotic benediction—but no one else seems to like my idea 🙂

      Thank you again, Kay. I hope this helps
      Best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

  130. Hi. I was wondering if there is an official language for the pledge of allegiance? I was under the assumption that it was to be recited in English. However at a recent school function it was recited in English and then in Spanish. I have never seen this before and quite frankly was shocked. I am looking forward to rearing your response.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Lynn. Thank you for writing. I get questions like yours more and more.

      While English is certainly our national language and the language of our government, it has never been confirmed by legislation and passed into law via Congress (and the Court system, where such a law would undoubtedly be challenged). Periodically a bill is introduced to make English the legal language of the United States, but the legislation never makes it though to law.

      There could be many reasons for reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish. A few years ago at end-of-school ceremonies at my granddaughter’s private Christian school, the kids recited the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish as a demonstration of their language skills, because the school starts Spanish language instruction with kindergarteners and continues it through the eighth grade.

      I’m sure in many school systems, the Pledge is recited in both languages as a way of bringing Spanish-speaking students in the American tradition of reciting the Pledge. It is presumed (and I certainly hope) that eventually their advancing language skills will bring them to the point of saying the Pledge in English. But there is nothing “official” that says the Pledge of Allegiance must be recited in English, or would forbid it from being recited in another language.

      The wording of the Pledge has been challenged, but that was for the ” … under God … ” portion. I have included the Pledge below, taken straight from the official government document (at Section 4), and I have included a link to the entire “Flag Code” itself where the Pledge is found. I like for everyone to have access to the entire document, which includes the history, all citations and amendments, et cetera. I personally consider the Flag Code an extremely important American historical document, and never pass up the chance to share it.

      Flag Code: http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/04C1.txt

      -CITE-
      4 USC Sec. 4 01/03/2012 (112-90)

      -EXPCITE-
      TITLE 4 – FLAG AND SEAL, SEAT OF GOVERNMENT, AND THE STATES
      CHAPTER 1 – THE FLAG

      -HEAD-
      Sec. 4. Pledge of allegiance to the flag; manner of delivery

      -STATUTE-
      The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag: “I pledge allegiance to the
      Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which
      it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and
      justice for all.”, should be rendered by standing at attention
      facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in
      uniform men should remove any non-religious headdress with their
      right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over
      the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag,
      and render the military salute.

      -SOURCE-
      (Added Pub. L. 105-225, Sec. 2(a), Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1494;
      amended Pub. L. 107-293, Sec. 2(a), Nov. 13, 2002, 116 Stat. 2060.)

      -MISC1-

      Also: The National Anthem Code is found here: http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/36C3.txt
      It is often overlooked because it is not found in the same section of the U.S. Code as the Flag Code.

      Thank you for writing, Lynn. I hope this helps.
      Best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

  131. Deborah,
    My son’s Cub Scout pack has been asked to carry the US, State and Pack Flags for their school’s Memorial Day Parade. When they return to school, there is a Ceremony in which the 5th grade choir is going to sing the Pledge of Allegiance. I have never heard of the Pledge being sung, especially in a public ceremony where the other kids and the adults will not know how it is supposed to be done. I haven’t been able to find anything that states it shouldn’t be sung. Do you know of anything?

    1. Dear Mr. Miller,

      I have been all over the internet this morning, and was I ever surprised. Apparently a lot of musical composers have set the Pledge of Allegiance to music. Here is one link, and the “Pledge” is number five up from the bottom of the list.
      http://www.usafband.af.mil/ensembles/BandEnsSongs.asp?Ensemble=-1&Genre=6

      I confess: this makes me a bit uneasy. I am a purist when it comes to things like the National Anthem and (apparently, now) the Pledge of Allegiance. I don’t like them to be tinkered with, but I think what you are about to witness will be a “performance,” so you and the rest of those gathered together will be observers. I don’t think this is an occasion where you would stand and salute the flag. The etiquette and protocol for reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is easy to understand, and a musical performance of the Pledge is entirely different.

      But to help keep things in perspective, the “rules” for the Pledge of Allegiance (and the National Anthem, for that matter) only describe personal comportment (to stand, to salute, et cetera), and do not proscribe who, what, where, and when (only how) the Pledge of Allegiance should be recited.

      If I were you, I would advise the Cubs to remain silent during this Pledge song, and watch you for a signal that would indicate otherwise.

      If you don’t mind, I would like to know how this all works out—if you would drop me a note later on.

      Thank you for writing.
      Best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

      P.S. Here are links to an official government web site (House of Representatives) that includes ALL of the Flag Code, and ALL of the National Anthem Code, which you may find useful. I know as a Cub Leader, you have instructions for the flag protocol, but these documents contains everything.
      Flag Code: http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/04C1.txt
      National Anthem Code: http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/36C3.txt

  132. When the National is played on school parades, Should the students be looking towards an Australian flag or is it ok to have no flag flying ?

    1. Thank you for writing. I am sorry to tell you that I don’t know anything about Australian flag code and Australian national anthem etiquette. However, I would be very surprised if it was considered improper to sing or play the National anthem without the presence of the flag.
      Best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

  133. Out-of-uniform military & veterans are now permited to salute the flag during presentation of the flag and during the national anthem:

    The most recent change, authorizing hand-salutes during the national anthem by veterans and out-of-uniform military personnel, was sponsored by Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, an Army veteran. It was included in the Defense Authorization Act of 2009, which President Bush signed on Oct. 14.
    The earlier provision authorizing hand-salutes for veterans and out-of-uniform military personnel during the raising, lowering or passing of the flag, was contained in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008, which took effect Jan. 28, 2008.

  134. I distinguish treatment of the flag and the pledge of allegiance this way: I stand at attention for the playing of the Star Spangled Banner (I cannot sing it so remain quiet.); but I put my hand over my heart for the pledge. I do not say “under god,” for that was placed upon us in the 1950s by far right wingers who knew only one god. We are a diverse country and that line should not be in a pledge. Just my way of thinking, and it has nothing to do with patriotism.

    1. Thank you for your comments, Skipper. I am providing links to the Flag Code and the National Anthem Code below. These are links to the House of Representatives website, and include all updates, annotations, citations, et cetera, which detail the history and court decisions regarding the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem. I think you will find them interesting reading. I consider these historical American documents, and I like for everyone to have the link—if you want to print out your own copy. The National Anthem code is frequently overlooked because it is not found in the same section of the U.S. code as the Flag Code.
      Flag Code: http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/04C1.txt
      National Anthem Code: http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/36C3.txt

      Best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

  135. I have been told that you cannot say the Pledge of Allegiance AND sing the National Anthem, it’s one or the other. True or false?

    1. The Flag Code (where instructions for the Pledge of Allegiance are located), and the National Anthem Code address personal comportment only. We are not told when or where, or under what circumstances we should recite the Pledge or sing the National Anthem (only how).

      In my personal experience, we generally recite the Pledge in smaller groups or settings (classroom or public meeting), where singing the National Anthem would have meant singing it a capella. Too many people lack the poise and skill to sing the National Anthem without instrumental accompaniment, or at least someone to lead the gathering. In larger groups and perhaps more grand occasions, the National Anthem is performed with someone to lead the anthem, or skilled vocalists, or musicians, et cetera. But there is nothing that says we can’t do both.

      There are no instructions for which should come first, if both the Pledge and the Anthem are used on the same occasion. Personally, I have long thought that saying the Pledge of Allegiance at the end of an event would be a lovely way to unite us and send back out into the community. Sort of a patriotic benediction (which would not conflict in anyway with a closing prayer if one was included).

      For your convenience, here are links to the Flag Code, and the National Anthem Code.

      You asked a good question, JaNell—it comes up more often than you’d think. Thank you for writing.

      Best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

  136. Each week at our Pachyderm mtg after prayer for the meal, country, etc, we have the pledge and then sing “God Bless America”. Last week after the pledge, a member sang the Nat. Anthem. I thankfully grew up with proper flag etiquette engrained in me by a VFW leader mom. Words can’t express my disappointment when not even a handful in front of me had hand over heart during the Anthem. Have I missed something? Been misinformed? Is it not necessary or a privilege to honor the flag all times? If I’m present at all events of a sports compition, does that mean I should honor it at least once, but not necessarily at every event? Please tell me: What kind of emphasis should I put on these two large symbols of our country’s sovereignty?

    1. Hi Tina. You have not been misinformed or missed anything, and believe me, I sympathize with your disappointment. But there IS an explanation.

      Since I started writing The Daily Flag, I have been surprised and disappointed to learn that an enormous number of people were never taught that we are asked to salute during the National Anthem. This is because—I think—that the instructions for etiquette and protocol during the National Anthem is NOT located within the Flag Code. Too many people think the Flag Code is all there is to be said about the flag, not knowing that the National Anthem Code even exists (which is primarily about the Anthem, not the flag).

      Even if we can’t see the flag during the National Anthem, we are still asked to stand and “face the music” and salute. And by salute, I mean either a military-style salute (if one is permitted to salute that way) or what I call a “heart” salute—that is: holding the right hand over the heart.

      Below are two links to official government websites. One is for the Flag Code, and one is for the National Anthem Code. I prefer to use the entire document, not an edited version. That means some tedious reading at times, but I like all the amendments, annotations, citations, and histories. They chronicle the history of how we use the flag, and I think that’s very important. You might like to print these out and save them for yourself. Perhaps there will be an opportunity for you to explain to your fellow club members that we are supposed to salute during the Anthem. I think they will be very happy to learn that.

      Flag Code—http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/04C1.txt

      National Anthem Code—http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/36C3.txt

      Thank you for writing, Tina. I hope this helps.

      Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  137. At an upcoming memorial event a local tae kwon do school is planning a presentation that includes an athletic routine (form) performed to a recording of the U. S. National Anthem. I can’t find anything specific which prohibits this, but it doesn’t seem appropriate. They also intend to hold/twirl small U.S. flags as part of the routine. There is no specific reference in the flag code against this either, but I’m not sure it is respectful even if it is intended as a show of respect in a memorial service. Your thoughts?

    1. Rob, thank you for writing. The rules for etiquette and protocol during the National Anthem are frequently overlooked because they are primarily about the Anthem, not the flag, and they are located in a different section of the U.S. Code from where the Flag Code is located. I am including a link to the entire document at the bottom of my note, but here is the main point.

      We are not told when or where to use the National Anthem. The only instructions address personal comportment. We are specifically told to stand and salute the flag, with a military salute (if appropriate) or a hand-over-the-heart salute (which I call a heart salute). Note (2) in particular: even if we can’t see the flag, we are still supposed to stand and face the direction of the music and salute. Given this detail, it is quite plain that nothing else is supposed to be going on while the National Anthem is playing.

      I hope you will be able to share this information with the tae kwon do school directors. It would be a an egregious breach of etiquette and protocol for the students to do any kind of routine to the National Anthem. You could suggest however, that a medley of traditional American patriotic songs be used instead. These are easily found on the internet.

      Best wishes, and I hope this helps.
      Deborah Hendrick

      Title 36, Chapter 3

      HEAD-
      Sec. 301. National anthem

      -STATUTE-
      (a) Designation. – The composition consisting of the words and
      music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.
      (b) Conduct During Playing. – During a rendition of the national
      anthem –
      (1) when the flag is displayed –
      (A) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at
      the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until
      the last note;
      (B) members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present
      but not in uniform may render the military salute in the manner
      provided for individuals in uniform; and
      (C) all other persons present should face the flag and stand
      at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not
      in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with
      their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand
      being over the heart; and

      (2) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face
      toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the
      flag were displayed.

      The National Anthem Code: http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/36C3.

  138. Deborah:

    With regard to the Nathional Anthem, would it be in order to clarify who you mean by
    “all other persons”? The spectators may include a mix of U.S. citizens, U.S. residents,
    foreign visitors, etc. as in the Olympics.

    Thanks,
    Zen Tymochko

  139. Well said “Skipper”… I follow the exact same protocol … I am only offended when someone
    “questions my patriotism”

  140. This is very strange to me, because while I have observed people placing their hand over their heart during the singing of the National Anthem, I had learned (in public schools, 1970s) to just stand at attention during the National Anthem, and to put my hand over my heart only during the Pledge of Allegiance. It will be difficult to unlearn this behavior, if I attempt to do so. I am quite surprised to read that this is indeed the proscribed protocol.

    I actually think it would feel strange to put my hand over my heart when our National Anthem is describing a war scene. I learn toward pacifism. I’ll have to give that some thought.

    And, my husband is not a US citizen, and he has always stood at attention. It would not seem at all honest for him to recite the pledge of allegiance or put his hand over his heart.

    1. It is regrettable that you were not taught the proper protocol for the National Anthem when you were a student. It was first codified into law in 1931. Here is a link: http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/36C3.txt You might like to print it out and study it at your leisure. There is a wealth of information there, particularly in the historical notes.

      Instructions for conduct during the Pledge of Allegiance is found here, which includes instructions for aliens. However, I am printing below, the portion that addresses your particular need. The “Flag Code” is a document well worth printing out and studying, too, in its entirety. As I mentioned before, the notes contain much information. In my opinion, the Flag Code and the National Anthem Code are historical American documents in their own right; everyone should know what is written in them, and have a complete copy.

      But flag etiquette is voluntary. There is no threat of penalty if you do not want to salute the flag (under any circumstance), or recite the Pledge/salute either. In any event, your husband should just stand at attention, with his arms to his sides.

      -CITE-
      4 USC Sec. 9 01/03/2012 (112-90)

      -EXPCITE-
      TITLE 4 – FLAG AND SEAL, SEAT OF GOVERNMENT, AND THE STATES
      CHAPTER 1 – THE FLAG

      -HEAD-
      Sec. 9. Conduct during hoisting, lowering or passing of flag

      -STATUTE-
      During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the
      flag is passing in a parade or in review, all persons present in
      uniform should render the military salute. Members of the Armed
      Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render
      the military salute. All other persons present should face the flag
      and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if
      applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold
      it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Citizens of
      other countries present should stand at attention. All such conduct
      toward the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment
      the flag passes.

      -SOURCE-
      (Added Pub. L. 105-225, Sec. 2(a), Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1498;
      Pub. L. 110-181, div. A, title V, Sec. 594, Jan. 28, 2008, 122
      Stat. 138.)

      -MISC1-

      HISTORICAL AND REVISION NOTES
      ——————————————————————–
      Revised Source (U.S. Code) Source (Statutes at Large)
      Section
      ——————————————————————–
      9 36:177. June 22, 1942, ch. 435, Sec.
      5, 56 Stat. 380; Dec. 22,
      1942, ch. 806, Sec. 5, 56
      Stat. 1077; July 7, 1976,
      Pub. L. 94-344, (17), 90
      Stat. 812.
      ——————————————————————–

      AMENDMENTS
      2008 – Pub. L. 110-181 substituted “all persons present in
      uniform should render the military salute. Members of the Armed
      Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render
      the military salute. All other persons present should face the flag
      and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if
      applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold
      it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Citizens of
      other countries present should stand at attention. All such conduct
      toward the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment
      the flag passes.” for “all persons present except those in uniform
      should face the flag and stand at attention with the right hand
      over the heart. Those present in uniform should render the military
      salute. When not in uniform, men should remove their headdress with
      their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being
      over the heart. Aliens should stand at attention. The salute to the
      flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag
      passes.”

      -End-

  141. The question has come about regarding reciting the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ and sing national anthems of more than one nation?

    1. I don’t quite understand your question, Thomas. Can you word it another way, and ask again? Deborah Hendrick

  142. Is it appropriate to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and then sing the National Anthems of say Canada, Norway, Sweden and the USA? Thanks.

    1. Sure. The Pledge of Allegiance can be said at any time, though it is most often recited early in an event. We play the national anthems of other countries first—they are our guests, so it’s company first—and the American national anthem is played last. The national anthems of foreign countries are played in alphabetically order (in English) by country. (But the U.S. flag would still go first by order of precedence, then the other nations alphabetically.)

      Thanks for writing back, Thomas.
      Best wishes,
      Deborah

  143. Our organization presents a flag raising ceremony where both the US and Canadian flags are raised. Understanding the US flag is raised first followed by the Canadian we have sung the anthems of each country during each raising. Protocol dictates the US flag be raised first and the National Anthem be sung last. Would it be appropriate to raise the US flag first and at the same time play “To the Color”, then raise the Canadian flag while singing ‘Oh Canada’, then return to face the US flag to sing the National Anthem?………/john d.

    1. Hi John,

      Thank you for writing. As a point of “honors” protocol, the bugle call “To the Colors” is played when the National Anthem is NOT performed. If the National Anthem is going to be sung, then the bugle call is unnecessary.

      So both flags would be raised—U.S. first, Canadian second. Then the Canadian national anthem is performed—and everyone looks to the Canadian flag (Americans stand at attention, arms at sides). The everyone looks to the U.S. flag while the American national anthem is performed. Americans salute as appropriate, while Canadians stand at attention but do not salute.

      Best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

  144. I am a retired vet and always observe the hopefully correct protocol during the pledge and Anthem. My question is regarding head gear when in civilian dress and using a military salute. Should one leave their head gear on when rendering the salute in civilian dress? It would seen correct since one would salute with their hear gear on when in uniform.

    Thanks for your research. Please cc my email in case I miss your reply on this web site

    Thanks
    Bruce

    1. Hi Bruce. Thank you for writing. It doesn’t matter if you are covered or not. You are permitted to salute either way.
      Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  145. Deborah,
    Do you or anyone else know the protcol for those performing the anthem- specifically singing? Obviously, instrumentalists cannot place their hand over their heart, but a vocalist could. I’ve sung my entire life and performed the anthem more times than I can count. As a performer, I have never done this, nor have I seen any other performers do it whether as a solo or in an ensemble/choir. The question was brought up to me today and I’d never really thought about it. When I’m not performing, I ALWAYS place my hand on my heart. When performing though, the etiquette would seem that it follow the same as instrumentalists.
    Thanks,
    Carrie

    1. Carrie, I apologize to the delay in answering your question. By tradition, those who “perform” the National Anthem (in any form) are not expected to salute the flag since they are part of the presentation. Thanks for writing, and best wishes. Deborah Hendrick.

  146. I am a photographer and many times I’ve taken photos during the posting of the colors/flag. I would take photo during the National Anthem and/or the pledge . I want to show folks in and out of uniform saluting, etc. Am I in violation to protocol as a photojournalist? Am I exempt? After I feel I’ve got my shot, I do fall into place with everyone else and place my hand over my heart and face the flag. Sometimes I’m in plain clothing and other times I’m in a police like uniform, but I’m not an officer (I’m a CSI).

    1. Ricardo—as long as you are not being intrusive or disrespectful, then getting your shot first, and then joining in with the others sounds ok to me. But I think you have to consider the dynamics and opportunity of each event and occasion, and act accordingly. Thank you for writing, and best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  147. The club that I belong to always starts their meeting with the pledge of allegiance. There is one couple that sits and eats during that time. This seems very disrespectful to me. What is the protocol if you don’t want to say the pledge, should you step outside during that time?

    1. Hi Deanna. I apologize for the delay in answering your question.
      There is no easy solution to this problem. This couple certainly has the right to not recite the Pledge of Allegiance with the other club members, but it’s quite rude to begin eating before the others. Most people who decline to say the Pledge at least have a modicum of respect for those who do, and stand or sit quietly for the brief period of time it takes to say the Pledge.

      Those who wrote and codified the Flag Code, where the Pledge of Allegiance is located, believed that Americans of goodwill and honor would abide by the “rules,” without enforcement or penalty. Perhaps the person in charge of the club meetings can say briefly at the beginning of each meeting, that refreshments will be served after the Pledge, club announcements, et cetera. Perhaps this will help.

      Best wishes, and thank you for writing. Deborah Hendrick

  148. Hi Linda Bolt

    I also grew up in the 70’s ( Michigan) and was taught the same as you- both in school and in Girl Scouts. Like you, I am surprised to learn that we are suppose to place the hand over the heart for the National Anthem. Nice to know that I am not the only one who was taught wrong, but I do wonder where that line of thinking came from- there must have been something at the time which lead these people to tell us just to stand straight or hands folded behind our backs for the National Anthem. Hummm???

    1. Brenda, thank you for writing. The rules for the National Anthem are not found in (what we call) The Flag Code, but in another part of the U.S. Code. Why the National Anthem is so overlooked is a mystery to me, but it is. If I had the opportunity to do a little rearranging in the U.S. Code, I’d combine the two sections.

      For reference, here are the links to official government websites you will find useful. I think it is important to read the whole documents. There is a wealth of information in the fine print.
      The Flag Code: http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/04C1.txt
      The National Anthem Code: http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/36C3.txt
      Rules for flying the POW/MIA flag: http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/36C9.txt

      When you want to cite a section, you say (for example), “U.S. Code, Title 4, Chapter 1” or “Title 36, Chapter 3.” Those numbers at the end of the URLs are the tip to their identity.

      Best wishes, Brenda.
      Deborah Hendrick

      1. Thank you Deborah for your information and for having such an important site.

  149. We are visiting Canadians to the United States annually. Each year we host a Canada Day Celebration in our park and invite the Canadians to attend. We may on occassion have a couple of Americans present. I would like to ensure each year that the organizers of the event or respectful of the country in which we are visiting.
    Is there a specific protocol on singing the national anthem of both countries and raising the flags of both countries, when the we (Canadians) are hosting our Canada Day event in the United States.

    1. Hi Tracy. The U.S. Department of State says “company first” when it comes to playing the National Anthems. So at your Canada Day celebration, the Canadian national anthem would be played first, and then the American national anthem is played second.

      For flags, the American flag goes up first (and comes down last). On a second pole—not the same pole—the Canadian flag will go up. Protocol insists that each nation represented gets its own pole, so that the flags are flown at the same height, and they should be the same size, too. If using a second flag pole is not an option, you can always hang the flags by their hoist side (up), and have them pre-positioned (in a pavilion or hall perhaps). The American flag would be in the left-most position as viewed from the front. Or you could display the flags on flag staffs with floor mounts.

      So raise the flags first, and play the national anthems afterward. All there will salute as appropriate. Americans are advised to stand at attention—but do not salute—for other nations’ flags and anthems. Presumably Canadians would do the same.

      I hope you have a great Canada Day! Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  150. We are Canadian but spend winters in Florida. We always stand at attention in respect during the reciting of the American Pledge of Allegiance but we do not put our hands over our hearts nor repeat the Pledge. Recently someone told me she thought we were being rude by not putting our hands over our hearts and repeating the Pledge. I understood citizens of other countries were to stand at attention during the Pledge and hoisting, lowering or passing of the flag. We don’t want to be disrespectful, we love our American friends, but I think what we are doing is correct protocol. Please help.

    1. Thank you for writing, and Welcome! If you get tired of Florida, come to Texas 🙂

      What Americans call The Flag Code contains instruction for personal comportment during the Pledge of Allegiance (found in Section 4), but does not specifically address how citizens of other countries should behave. But in Section 9 of the Flag Code, it says:

      TITLE 4 – FLAG AND SEAL, SEAT OF GOVERNMENT, AND THE STATES
      CHAPTER 1 – THE FLAG

      -HEAD-
      Sec. 9. Conduct during hoisting, lowering or passing of flag

      -STATUTE-
      During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the
      flag is passing in a parade or in review, all persons present in
      uniform should render the military salute. Members of the Armed
      Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render
      the military salute. All other persons present should face the flag
      and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if
      applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold
      it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Citizens of
      other countries present should stand at attention.
      All such conduct
      toward the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment
      the flag passes. (I added the bold print.)

      I think we can safely extrapolate from this, and conclude that citizens of other countries should remain silent during the Pledge of Allegiance, and stand at attention. And this is what the U.S. State Department advises for non-U.S. citizens (who may be in the U.S. on visas). So you are correct, and now you have the proof. Athletes from other countries have the same problem, when they play for American sporting teams (especially hockey and baseball players) when the National Anthem is played.

      This is probably more information than you need, but here are links to both documents.
      Called “Title 4, Chapter 1” (the Flag Code) http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/04C1.txt
      Called “Title 36, Chapter 3” (the National Anthem Code)http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/36C3.txt

      So you can tell your fussy American acquaintance: “But in Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 9, it says Citizens of other countries present should stand at attention [during occasions involving the American flag].”

      Best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

  151. Thank you so much for your researcg. I too grew up in the 70’s (Missouri) and was never taught to salute at the singing of the national anthem, only the Pledge of Allegiance. I will now follow proper protocol and inform others. Knowledge is indeed power. Thanks again for a great website.

    1. Thank you, Carla. I am glad you found The Daily Flag. Best wishes, Deborah

  152. Deborah,

    Can the playing of “To the Colors” replace reciting the pledge? This is for an Eagle Court of Honor ceremony and I have heard that it does. I understand that it probably wouldn’t matter if both were done, but it seems redundant to me. I am a USAF vet and we only used the bugle call during flag ceremonies and almost never recited the pledge.

    Kind regards – Marc

    1. Hi Marc. Thank you for writing. Let me answer you in reverse order.

      Regarding military personnel reciting the Pledge of Allegiance: The Pledge of Allegiance is essentially an oath for civilians. Milpers in uniform do not recite the Pledge. Presumably this is because they have taken an oath that is considerably more encompassing than the Pledge of Allegiance (they have pledged their very lives). So milpers keep silent and salute during the Pledge. It is my understanding that all military salutes are or should be “silent,” with any verbal acknowledgements before or after, but not during. No doubt, however, that these two functions slide and overlap in less formal situations.

      The bugle call “To the Colors” has no bearing on, nor would it replace reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. “To the Colors” is literally that—a highly audible announcement to the post, camp, base, fort, installation, et cetera, that the Flag is either going up or coming down, and that all personnel (who are outdoors) should stop what they are doing, turn in the direction of the post flag (even if you can’t see it), and salute the Colors.

      It has been a long time since I attended an Eagle Scout Court of Honor (my husband was a Scoutmaster for 10 years, and my son made Eagle in 1986), but I never heard “To the Colors” except at scout camp. If a Color Guard is going to bring in the Colors, then any Scout can simply say, “Would you please stand for the Colors.” That gives all in there a chance to empty their hands and stand, and be prepared to salute the flag (as appropriate to their circumstances) as it goes by.

      I can’t imagine any Scout ceremony without the Pledge of Allegiance. Singing the National Anthem is a bit more complicated, since it takes a lot of personal composure to direct and/or sing the Anthem a cappella, and Scout halls rarely have a piano.

      I regret chopping the bugler out of the occasion, unless as a bit of entertainment for those gathered, the bugler demonstrates his skill and plays a variety of bugle calls such as would be used at Scout camp. The younger Scouts could act out the appropriate tableaux (just some fun thinking here). This link is useful: http://bands.army.mil/music/buglecalls/

      Best wishes, Marc. I hope this helps.
      Deborah Hendrick

  153. Thanks Deborah. That helps. Btw, we have always had the bugler as a part of our courts and our opening and closing flag ceremonies at our normal troop meetings (and camp outs for that matter.) I too was scoutmaster for 10 years. I would advise on ceremonies that families would hold, but we followed our traditions with regard to the bugler. I have retired from SM and have been asked to officiate at a court and they are asking for the process we followed when I was SM. We always recited the pledge in addition to the bugle calls, but this question came up. I found your site and was heartened to see others who still care about this topic.

    So, we will do both as planned then.

    On a side note, I always made sure my boys knew proper flag etiquette and every scout under my care could tell you the proper procedures for raising and lowering the flag on a staff even half mast! They can tell you the proper way to hang a flag over a street for a parade or on a wall.

    Thanks again,
    Marc

  154. When many National flags are presented together during the playing of the various National Anthems do all Nation flags stay up? You only dip state and other flags correct?

    Thanks
    Tim

    1. Hi Tim. The flags of all nations are given equal, identical respect. Same size, same height, et cetera. State and other flags may be dipped to the U.S. flag, but it is not required, and I would not do it if there were foreign flags in the mix.

      Thank you for writing. Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  155. Hello:
    I am planing an official assembly, in which 3 flags are going to be on display: USA, Puerto Rico and the one of the Cooperative movement, also the 3 anthems are going to be play. I am researching the for the proper order of the flags and anthems.

    Thank you for your help!

    1. Clanela—the flags would be displayed with the US flag in the right-most position as it faces the crowd (or to the left as the crowd looks at the flags), with the flag of Puerto Rico next, then the Cooperative movement flag. Puerto Rico, being a U.S. territory, is treated the same as a state. So the U.S. national anthem is played first, then the Puerto Rico anthem next, and the Cooperative movement anthem last. Thank you for writing. Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  156. Thank you so much. The Vietnam Veterans, present in the assambly were very glad, and send you a warm hug from Puerto Rico.

  157. […] The protocol when the National Anthem is played is “all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart,” according to the Daily Flag. […]

  158. Our church is planning a ceremony to include the National Anthem. Per Code, I know that the salute begins at the opening note of the Anthem. However, if the flags are marched in just prior to the Anthem, should everyone salute as the flag passes and continue the salute through the Anthem? What is the protocol in this situation? Thanks.

    1. Hi Christy,
      The National Anthem Code is silent on a situation like this. Yes, the ceremony could begin as you have described it. Also, you might think posting the flags and letting every one sit down. This provides a breather of sorts—a short rest. This gives time for an opening prayer, remarks from the pastor or worship leader, introduction to the Anthem, and then the invitation to stand/salute again while the Anthem is performed. However, at the beginning—the flags need to be announced so everyone can stand, and no music is played while the flags are brought in because the only music we salute is the National Anthem, and we don’t play the National Anthem while the flags are in motion.
      Thank you for writing, Christy, and best wishes for a lovely day at your church. Deborah Hendrick

  159. Is it ok for people to sing the national anthem while.it is being played. As a former high school band member/ still musician. We always at competitions or games stood at attention if we weren’t the ones performing it. And showed our respect by being quiet and letting the people who were playing it be the ones who played it. I hear people sing it while it is being played and I wasnt sure if it was ok or not to do so. Maybe my question is redundant, but I wanted to ask for clarification. Thank you

    1. Sometimes it’s darn hard to sing along with the National Anthem, depending on who is performing! But if you want to sing, it’s ok. Be polite and respectful, and maybe sing softly—but sing.

      You asked a good question Adam. Thank you for writing and best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  160. When reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, is it proper for women to un-cover their headdress? What is the protocal, here?
    CS

    1. The Pledge of Allegiance mentions men only, in regard to removing head coverings. I have seen some women take off their hats when they were wearing a ball cap, or what might typically be considered a man’s hat, but it is not required. No harm or foul if the woman wants to remove her hat, but specifically not asked for in the Flag Code.

      Thank you for writing, Cpl. Soupy. Best wishes, Deborah

  161. When I was at my son’s school this morning, they played the national anthem, but they had no flag in the office to face. The music was coming from the speakers overhead, so I was confused about protocol. Was told to face in the direction of the flag outside even though I could not see it. Right or wrong?

    1. Hi Dawn. If no flag is visible to salute, you are supposed to stand at attention, face the (source of) music—in this case a speaker—and salute as appropriate with a military salute or a heart salute (right hand over the heart). It is important to remember that we render honors to the National Anthem by saluting, whether is the flag is present on not. The link below is useful.
      http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/36/301
      Thank you for writing, and best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

  162. As a foreigner, I want to know the protocol when the U.S. National Anthem is played. I had thought that somebody who is not a U.S. citizen is not supposed to cover their hand over their heart but is to respectfully place their hands to their side. I desire to do the right thing and the subject came up when I was attending my son’s football (soccer) game. As a non citizen, I would imagine that I don’t have the same rights and privileges. Can someone help me?

    1. As a non-citizen of the U.S., you are under no obligation to sing or salute during the American National Anthem, or recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The instructions for non-citizens is to stand at attention with your arms at you side. However, if you want to sing or salute—with a hand over the heart—during the National Anthem, you are free to participate. Those who know you would regard it an act respect. Thank you for writing, Philip, and best wishes. Deborah Hendrick

      1. Dear Deborah,
        Thank you so much for your helpful reply. I really appreciated it and commend you for your quick response. Again, thank you.
        Philip

  163. I read “Protocol for the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance,” Feb 13th, 2007 by Larry Hendrick, and most of the posts here (admittedly, I did not read all 259 responses). I see where it is described what to do during the National Anthem when the flag is not displayed (face toward the music…). My question is: what do you do during the Pledge of Allegiance if the flag is not displayed? While the flag code addresses the protocol for the Pledge, is makes no mention of what to do if the flag is not displayed. Maybe that’s because there is no logic in pledging your allegiance to a flag that is not present?

    Many groups, like Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, start their programs with the pledge. I have seen them use the flag on a member’s shirt sleeve if a larger flag is not displayed (a flag is a flag no matter what size, correct?). So, I guess I have two questions: (1) is there any logic in saying the Pledge if there is no flag displayed? and (2) if the answer to the first question is yes, it’s OK to say the pledge when a flag is not displayed, then what do you face? Taking from the rule on the National Anthem that when no flag is displayed you face toward the music, would you face the person “leading” the saying of the Pledge, assuming there is a “leader?” If that person does not exist, what would you face? Oddly, this whole thing stems from someone who says he was taught you face east to say the Pledge when a flag is not present. The idea makes no sense, and a reasonable search of the web turns up nothing of the sort.

    Thanks.

    1. Dear ECJ, From the Flag Code: The Pledge of Allegiance “should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag … .” We do not (should not) recite the Pledge of Allegiance without a flag present.

      On a personal note: Lately I have been thinking about carrying a small flag in my handbag—maybe a 12″x17″—without the stick and folded appropriately. Not that I expect to need the flag for the Pledge, or anything else, but I just like the idea.

      I hope this helps. Thank you for writing. Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  164. Deborah – I liked your responses and thought I would respectfully ask you to weigh in on another flag/pledge issue. We are one of thousands of high school Junior ROTC programs in America. Once each week on our uniform day, we say the Pledge of Allegiance while indoors and in a military uniform. Again, we are not covered as we are indoors in the classroom. The question is “do the cadets stand at attention and face the flag or should they place their right hand over their heart?” I never experienced this issue when in the Navy since the Pledge was never used since the National Anthem was always available. Thanks.

    1. Dear LCDR Stauffer,

      I am not the best person to answer this question. So I hope you will take my answer to your ROTC liaison in the Navy for confirmation. It is a complicated issue.

      You should not be reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in uniform at all. The Pledge of Allegiance was written and adopted for civilians. You and your Junior ROTC cadets conduct yourselves under the aegis of the U.S. Navy, and military personnel do not recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and especially not in uniform. They also do not sing during the National Anthem, but stand at attention and salute.

      Why? My theory: Because military personnel have taken a higher, more comprehensive oath than the Pledge of Allegiance. I know we are talking about high school students, and they have not taken an oath of enlistment. Nevertheless, they took some kind of an oath or pledge when they joined Junior ROTC. When they are in uniform, they should comport themselves precisely the same way they would if they were full military.

      Saluting indoors: When Congress passed the legislation giving veterans and military personnel in civilian clothing the right to salute the flag (under the same conditions in which they would have saluted while in uniform), the Commandant of the U.S. Navy issued a statement saying that Navy traditions are not negated by recent acts of Congress, and Navy personnel would not be saluting without head covers, or in civilian clothing. So you and your cadets must decide, individually or as a unit, whether you will salute the flag uncovered or not.

      My recommendation for conduct (in uniform) during the Pledge of Allegiance: Stand at attention, do not salute if uncovered and indoors, and do not recite the Pledge. This will require every cadet to (eventually) explain why, but this is part of the tradition of the military in general, and the U.S. Navy specifically.

      If they are in civilian clothing, then they can act as civilians, following the instructions for conduct as given in the Flag Code and the National Anthem Code.

      This link is to a long article, which has not been updated recently, but you may find it useful to read, especially the comments. Some of the links in it may be dead, but they go to government websites which may be shut down at present.
      http://www.flagsbay.com/flag/2008/10/20/veterans-salute-the-flag-clarifying-the-change-in-the-us-code/

      Thank you for writing. I hope this helps, but I do hope you will confirm this information through your resources. My best wishes to you and the cadets. I have a tender heart for these young people.

      Deborah Hendrick

  165. Hi. My elementary choir will be singing the national anthem this TH, but I wanted to know if we had to sing it first? Can it be put second or even last in our program? We were going to talk about the history of it’s origins and will have the audience stand of course. I don’t want to be disrespectful by not singing it right off the bat. Thank you for your quick reply.

    1. Hi Nadine. Our only instructions for the National Anthem (found in Title 36 of the U.S. Code) address personal comportment only. We are not told when or where, or under what circumstances to sing the National Anthem. Traditionally, we usually do sing the Anthem early on, but if the program itself is about the National Anthem, then of course it is perfectly appropriate to sing it where it naturally fits into the event. I hope everyone enjoys the program. Best wishes, Deborah

      1. The program isn’t about the national anthem, it’s one of the songs in it. I have a student tell the audience about the piece were are going to sing.

        1. Ah. After welcoming greetings and remarks, I would let the child’s information about the National Anthem be the intro to the event. Then the student can graciously invite all those in attendance to stand for the Anthem and salute as appropriate. All the best, Deborah

  166. Is there a protocol on which goes first The National Anthem or The Pledge of Allegiance? As a music teacher I never thought about it until someone mentioned it. Each year for our Veterans Day Program it has been switchedd back and forth. Thank A Vet!

    1. Hi Dawn. The Flag Code and the National Anthem Code are both silent on the topic of who goes first. The only instructions concern personal comportment. So we are not told when or where do say the Pledge or sing the Anthem, only how to do them. This provides a lot of latitude in how we perform these two honors. I have often thought that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the end of a meeting or event would be a lovely way to close—a sort of patriotic benediction if you will, before we all leave for our homes, work, et cetera—especially since many schools no longer permit prayers on the campus. Saying the Pledge at the end would remind us, bind us (I hope) together. The person who leads the pledge could then dismiss those assembled. And certainly if a prayer were included in the program, the Pledge could be said before the prayer.

      If the event opens with a Color Guard, then it would be quite natural (and customary) to recite the Pledge before the flag carriers post the flags, and then all will sit down. This provides a little breather during which the Master of Ceremonies makes welcoming remarks, introduces special guests, et cetera. Then the MC can introduce those who will perform the National Anthem, inviting all to stand (those who can) for the Anthem. Regarding the Colors: the Colors are announced, but carried in silence—no music. This is because we salute the flag, but the only music we salute is the National Anthem, and the Colors are not in motion during the Anthem.

      Thank you for writing, Dawn. Best wishes for a lovely and successful Veterans Day program.
      Deborah Hendrick

  167. During our school Veterans Day ceremony our Kindergarten and 1st grade students will be “singing” The Pledge of Allegiance as a part of their performance. How should this be handled? Should the audience be asked to stand for the song? We typically recite the Pledge during our ceremony.
    Thank you very much for your assistance. Regards, Julie

    1. Julie—I don’t know what to tell you. I’ve never heard of singing the Pledge of Allegiance. Permit me to brainstorm for a bit …

      Americans render honors the flag by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and saluting, but singing the Pledge makes it a performance, and the two are not interchangeable. Certainly there is no obligation to recite the Pledge (or sing the National Anthem)—the U.S. Code does not tell us where or when we should renders these honors; it addresses personal comportment only. However, if you don’t recite the Pledge, those assembled may feel like the musical performance was meant to be the Pledge, and you want to avoid that since it would be a breach of etiquette.

      Can the musical Pledge be combined with other patriotic songs—so that it is clearly separated from the recited Pledge? If the recited Pledge is said early in the event, then the musical Pledge would be perceived properly as a musical number and I don’t think people would try to stand. Could the musical Pledge be given at the end of the ceremony? It would be quite moving, especially from the school’s youngest pupils. If people stood at the end, then it would be quite logical to say “Thank you for coming today,” et cetera. Or if there is a closing prayer to follow the musical Pledge—it would be a lovely way to end the ceremony, and negate any awkwardness if someone stands for the musical Pledge. What it boils down to is putting as much space as you can between reciting the Pledge and when the children sing it.

      I don’t know if this helps you, Julie. You are welcome to phone me if you want—it helps sometimes to bounce ideas back and forth. And I may be overlooking something obvious, too.
      Best wishes, and thank you for writing.
      Deborah Hendrick
      830-899-4464

  168. The writer did NOT answer the question. Which should come first, the Pledge or the National Anthem?? Maybe I overlooked his answer but I’m still not clear.

    1. Bob—you are not alone. The Flag Code (where we find the instructions for the Pledge of Allegiance) and the National Anthem Code are silent on this. In fact, the only instructions address personal comportment, and nothing else. We are not told when or where to recite the Pledge or sing the National Anthem, only how to perform these honors, and certainly not what order to observe them.

      Depending on the occasion, the Pledge is frequently recited first, following the entrance of a Color Guard, and then the National Anthem is performed later after introductions. But we have all freedom to order them any way we choose. When I was a schoolgirl (in Texas) we said the Pledge in our classrooms, but waited for assemblies or “big” events to sing the National Anthem. So I came to associate the Pledge with small groups and the Anthem with large groups.

      I personally think saying the Pledge of Allegiance at the end of an event would be a lovely way to close—a sort of patriotic benediction before we say goodbye and go our separate ways. I don’t know that anyone has ever done this, but I float the idea at every opportunity.

      I wish I could give you a definitive answer to your question, but I cannot. I have attached links to the Flag Code and the National Anthem Code for your use.

      Flag Code:http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?path=/prelim@title4&edition=prelim
      National Anthem Code: http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?path=/prelim@title36/subtitle1&edition=prelim

      Thank you for writing, Bob. I appreciate that you took the time to search for an answer.
      Best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

      1. Deborah: Thanks for your reply on my protocal question. I coordinate the local Veterans Day program and Memorial Day program as director for the Chamber in my small town in North Texas. I’ll just wing it tomorrow and know that God will forgive me if I get it wrong. If you have an interest in politics check us out somtime at http://www.constitutionparty.com. We are closely alighned with Oathkeepeers.org. Check them out too.

        Blessings

  169. I am a member of a chorus that is sometimes asked to sing the National Anthem at sports events. I recently had a disagreement with our director over the demeanor of the chorus members during the singing. As a retired Navy officer, I suggested we stand at attention while we sing. He rejected that with a long explanation saying choral performers never do that and instead stand and sing in a relaxed manner. He would not suggest what that demeanor should be. I find that attitude to be disrespectful. I’d rather we all at least assume the same posture. Which one of us is right?

    1. Hi Mike. The National Anthem Code is silent on how the Anthem should be performed. The Code addresses personal comportment only, so we are not told when or where to perform the Anthem, nor how it should be performed. The result is that Americans are given—and have taken—great liberty in how the Anthem is performed. I am a bit of a purist, so I like it best when we all sing it together, the way it was written, but alas, that rarely happens. (Imagine at the Super Bowl, if everyone in the stadium stood and sang the National Anthem together. I hope someday to see such a thing.)

      Coming from a military background, you are accustomed to seeing the Anthem performed by men and women in pristine uniforms, and standing at perfect attention. Civilians performances are frequently more relaxed, though woe unto them if they stray too far from the traditional path. One of the finest performances I ever heard was at a minor league baseball game in Amarillo, Texas, when three Amarillo players in uniform stood at home plate, put their bare heads together over one microphone, and sang the Anthem in three-part harmony.

      While you certainly know the difference between standing up straight, and standing at attention, for most civilians—standing up straight IS standing at attention. You will need to make allowance in your heart for those around you and the chorus director.

      Mike, I appreciate that you took the time to search for answers and write.
      Best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

  170. With regard to the issue of men removing their headwear during the playing of the National Anthem, is any distinction made as to where the event at which the anthem is played is indoors or outdoors, and about the latter, if the event is played in temperatures of extreme cold?

    Also, in recent years baseball stadia are constructed with open concourses where concession stands and rest rooms are located. These areas are in almost full view of the field areas where the anthem is being sung and the colors displayed. Do the rules set forth in the statute apply to those areas or merely to the seating bowls areas?

    1. Hi Ray. Thank you for writing. Regarding the National Anthem Code, which I have attached below, there is no distinction made for being indoors or outdoors. When the music begins, men and boys (except for veterans and active duty military personnel) should remove their head coverings, and salute during the National Anthem with a heart salute—by placing their right hand over the heart. If you can hear the music, you should face the direction of the music and salute. (Obviously, if one is inside a restroom and/or a restroom stall, this particular part of etiquette must be politely overlooked.)

      In the case of the National Anthem, we are rendering honors to the anthem itself, rather than the flag.
      Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

      §301. National anthem

      (a) Designation.-The composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.

      (b) Conduct During Playing.-During a rendition of the national anthem-

      (1) when the flag is displayed-

      (A) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note;

      (B) members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute in the manner provided for individuals in uniform; and

      (C) all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and

      (2) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.

      (Pub. L. 105–225, Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1263; Pub. L. 110–417, [div. A], title V, §595, Oct. 14, 2008, 122 Stat. 4475.)

      1. Here is my interpretation:

        Male veterans with hats may leave hats on head and render a military salute.
        Male veterans with hats may remove hats and hold over left shoulder, hand over heart.
        Male veterans without hats may render a military salute.
        Male veterans without hats may render the civilian salute: right hand over heart.
        Male veterans should execute one of the above, as applicable.

        So, if all of the above are correct, what are the rules for female veterans?

        Also, active duty Navy and Marine Corps in uniform remove cover indoors. Navy and
        Marine Corps in uniform do not salute unless covered.
        Question: What is protocol for uniformed Navy and Marine Corps personnel when
        indoors when National Anthem is played? What about female Navy and
        Marine Corps personnel?

        1. Hello Mr.Tymochko, How nice to hear from you again.

          The changes to the Flag Code that permit veterans and active duty personnel out of uniform to salute make no distinction between male and female veterans. The decision to render a military salute or a “heart” salute belongs entirely to the veteran and the military person, under all circumstances.

          Regarding Navy and Marine Corps active-duty personnel and their veterans: By passing this particular legislation, Congress summarily dismissed centuries of Navy and Marine Corp standards and tradition. It is therefor incumbent upon each Navy and Marine veteran—and active-duty personnel—to decide to salute in a civilian setting. The Navy and Marine Corp make no distinction between men and women regarding saluting, so even a civilian situation, the decision to render a military salute, or not, is entirely a private decision.

          Thank you for writing. This was a good question.
          Best wishes,
          Deborah Hendrick

  171. Parent and an Ohio resident here…
    School districts in Ohio are not required to have children recite Pledge of Allegiance. Many Ohio school system district school administrators don’t want to rock a political boat (local, state or national), so they avoid recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance tradition altogether in their districts.
    Observation…
    At school sports events, and most certainly amateur and professional sports events, I’ve noticed everyone (spectators, athletes and yes school administrators) happily, and seemingly genuinely, following protocol for the National Anthem without any challenge, conflict or criticism. In fact, I’ll go so far to say that I’ve never seen any US Citizen who is NOT willingly follow protocol during the National Anthem at a sports event. Yet, I have found some of these same people as being vehemently against any requirement of having children in schools recite the Pledge of Allegiance. To me it is unfortunate that priorities and protocols are so dramatically different between Classrooms and Ballparks. I am at a loss. I’ve yet to determine what this particular hypocrisy is teaching our kids.
    Ohio has only four other states in our union that agree with its position not to mandate the Pledge of Allegiance in Schools— By my math, 92% of the States of our United States of America have decided differently from Ohio and have deemed the Pledge as being worthy to mandate in a school day.

    1. Thank you for writing. Ohio may, like California, permit only student-led Pledges of Allegiance. The school has to allow a time during the day for a student or students to lead the student body in the Pledge, but there is no participation by the staff in these proceedings (to encourage or discourage reciting the Pledge of Allegiance), and no student may be compelled to recite the Pledge. This may be something for you to check into. Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  172. I have been to several sporting venues where the flag is automatically lowered from the ceiling for the playing of the national anthem. Once the anthem is completed, it is slowly rolled back up. How long should one remain standing as the flag is being rolled back up?

    1. Hi Rob. Thank you for writing. I feel like an old grouch answering your question. That’s because I am definitely not a fan of the “roll down” flag. But if I was present where the flag was being rolled down and then up again, I would stand and continue to salute (heart salute or military salute) as long as any part of the flag was still visible.

      Here is a link to the National Anthem Code, which you may find useful.
      http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=National+Anthem&f=treesort&fq=true&num=2&hl=true&edition=prelim&granuleId=USC-prelim-title36-section301

      Best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

  173. I am sporting official where multiple venues may be playing at the same time. You may have baseball on one field, softball on another field, and possibly track on the football field. All of these sporting competitions may start at different times and usually will all include the playing of the National Anthem. What is the proper protocol when you can clearly hear the National Anthem playing on one field while you’re in the middle of play on another field?

    1. Hi Jimmy. Thank you for writing. The National Anthem Code does not tell us where or when to perform the National Anthem; it addresses personal comportment only. Those who wrote and codified the National Anthem never anticipated this situation. Previously I have advised those on game fields, if they can hear the Anthem from another field, to stop and render honors as appropriate. It takes about 1 minute, 20 second for the Anthem to be performed, so that’s not an unreasonable length of time to pause. You will never be criticized for stopping while the Anthem plays, and if someone does, send them to me 🙂

      Here is a link to the National Anthem from the U.S. Code, if you want to print it out and keep it handy in case someone kicks up a fuss.

      Best wishes, Jimmy. I appreciate that you took the time to search for an answer.
      Deborah Hendrick

  174. After watching the absolute butchering of our national anthem by 5 singers [?] at the Rose Bowl, I decided that something needed to be done to convince event organizers to contract only with singers who agree to sing it as written by Francis Scott Key. As a member of several veterans organizations, I have organized a committee to look into this issue. We will look at social media and a combined, concerted PR campaign by the national veterans organizations such as the VFW and American Legion, et. al. Your suggestions and comments are welcome.

    1. Dear Mr. Rathmell,

      I no longer listen to the National Anthem as performed at sporting events. My husband sends me out of the room and mutes the sound—that’s how badly I react. But you took the time to find The Daily Flag and write to me, so I found the Rose Bowl “anthem” on YouTube and watched it. I must tell you: I’ve heard a lot worse. I would be happy to hear these ladies sing gospel music to me all day long, but like you, I prefer the Anthem original-style.

      But what is original? John Stafford Smith composed the “original” melody, but there is no official version. On July 26, 1889, the Secretary of the Navy designated “The Star Spangled Banner” as the official tune to be played at the raising of the flag. During Woodrow Wilson’s presidency, the White House played it whenever a national anthem was deemed appropriate.

      John Philip Sousa’s strong support in a National Anthem was key in the passage of the legislation, which President Herbert C. Hoover signed into law March 3, 1931. It established Francis Scott Key’s poem and John Stafford Smith’s music as the official anthem of the United States. The new law, however, did not specify an official text or musical arrangement, which left room for creative arrangements and interpretations of “The Star Spangled Banner.” And we Americans are creative.

      At the U.S. Army’s own music website, under Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) it says,

      How can I get copies of written music for The U.S. National Anthem?
      Due to copyright laws and music licensing concerns, we can’t provide music and recommend that you buy all music commercially through a music publisher (see a list at http://www.mpa.org/ or http://www.nmpa.org/links.html). If you can’t find the song you would like to purchase, call The U.S. Army Band at (703) 696-3648 for assistance.

      What this means is that the U.S. Army does not always use the same arrangement of the National Anthem. And I bet that the Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard use a variety of arrangements, too.

      There is apparently a U.S. Department of State version, which I cannot find, though I will keep looking. Presumably this arrangement is provided to other countries so that they can play an appropriate rendition of the Star Spangled Banner when an official U.S. delegation is visiting, and this version would be played in our own embassies around the world and at state department events. But there is no legislation to support this “official” version.

      Where we run into trouble is establishing an official arrangement of Smith’s melody, which is precisely what the National Anthem Code carefully avoids. An arrangement of the National Anthem written for 5th and 6th graders is vastly different from the one played by the President’s Own U.S. Marine Corps Band. Here is a U.S. Navy band rendition, suitable for any event (and what I wish all performances of the National Anthem sounded like): http://www.navyband.navy.mil/anthems/ANTHEMS/United%20States.mp3

      And here are four very old recordings of the Star Spangled Banner, and while all of them are the same basic melody and lyric, none of the arrangements are the same (the National Anthem is not always the first song in each of the recordings). Here is another basic version and it’s different from the first one I linked to. They are in different keys and the arrangement of the notes is not the same.

      One of those old recordings is by a Marine Corp band, and they aren’t using a constant drum roll and crashing cymbals—and I can’t imagine a Marine Corps band today playing the National Anthem without a loud drum roll and shimmering cymbals. But wait, there’s more: Listen to this recording of a John Philips Sousa arrangement. I don’t know if it was considered over the top at the time, but even by today’s standards, I think most people would be dismayed.

      I share all this with you in love and frustration. Like you, I am deeply frustrated by performers who take liberties with the National Anthem and try to make it a showcase for their particular talent and style. On the other hand, we Americans are rather big on liberty and freedom, and style, too. And if Congress refused to qualify how the the National Anthem should be performed when they passed the legislation, who am I to insist that the song be sung to please me? But somehow we have permitted the singing of the National Anthem turn into this frightening exhibition for both the performer(s) and the observers, and I don’t think anyone is happy about the result.

      So this is what I do want, and it will solve most of these problems. There were 100,000 people in the Rose Bowl Stadium last week, and they let four (very nice ladies, I’m certain) sing the National Anthem for them.

      No. Not any more. I want ALL of us to sing the National Anthem. Together. Imagine 100,000 voices singing together. That brings me to my knees and gives me the shivers. Obviously we don’t all have splendid voices, and I can’t hit the high notes or the low notes either, but in a stadium of 100,000 people, there would be enough people who could and those in the middle would sustain those above and below.

      Imagine at the Super Bowl or the the World Series, if a performer of incandescent splendor, came out and invited everyone there to stand and sing together while he or she conducted the National Anthem (with or without instrumental accompaniment). Wow. How amazing would that be? Instead of cringing, we would be shouting hallelujah at our television screens. And it doesn’t have to be a “personality” to conduct the Anthem. I’d be happy to sing with the band, or a recorded Anthem. We’ve made it so complicated and it doesn’t have to be. But what this also means is that we would need to sing a traditional, standard version of the Star Spangled Banner in order to sing it together. Which would make me (and thee) very happy, not to mention millions of other Americans.

      I can’t support the idea of insisting that any singer perform the National Anthem to a traditional standard, but I can most definitely support, encourage, and promote the idea of singing the National Anthem in unison. You are not alone in seeking a better way to honor our country by honoring the Anthem. I get at least one letter-writer a week to the website or to me personally who is saddened, frustrated, and disgusted by performances designed to showcase the performers more than the Anthem.

      Thank you for writing, and forgive me for my long-winded response. Think about my idea and see how it works with your idea of contacting event organizers. There’s a solution in all of this, I’m certain.

      I apologize for writing so much, but your comment was timely.

      Best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

  175. Deborah,
    Thank you so much for your last comments. You are %100 on the mark. As an American citizen and a music teacher, I am very disgusted with many of the “performances” of our National Anthem. This is the song of our country and, in my opinion, should and needs to be sung by every American (with the exception of those who believe it to be contrary to their religious beliefs). If one person leads the song, a straight simple version would be perfect. I don’t mind different composers making their own arrangements, as long as the melody stays the same and can be sung. Yes, it is not the easiest to sing. When it gets to the high part, people can just sing it an octave lower in their range. How glorious it would be to participate with 100,000 or 100 in singing the song of our wonderful country. It doesn’t matter the size of the group, my heart always wells up with pride as I sing with my fellow Americans. When I taught on an American Army post in Germany, our National Anthem was played in the movie theatre on post before the movie started. All the military personnel diligently stood giving the military salute as they listened to an instrumental version being played. There was something missing from this English composed song being played (the lyrics). Aren’t the lyrics what make this song an American song? The second time I went to the movies I sang alone ( I am no soloist). From that point on I encouraged my students to sing the anthem any time it was played.
    I have now been teaching music in elementary school for 33 years. Every performance which my students give begins with everyone standing and saying the Pledge of Allegiance followed by all being invited to sing “The Star Spangled Banner”. It’a a beautiful experience to have everyone sing together. I often have to wipe away a few tears. How glorious would it be to have an entire football stadium singing together, and how proud I feel when I see the American flag being raised and our athletes sometimes singing our National Anthem as they receive a gold medal at the olympics. We need to get this country singing!
    Deborah, how could we work together to get this bandwagon rolling?

    1. Sondra, I apologize for the delay in responding to your comment; I was on the road. I’m so happy to know that you are out there, teaching The Star-Spangled Banner to your students. You are in a good position to get the word out by encouraging your students to sing when the opportunity arises. Also, you could approach your school board and ask that the school system always provide for singing together when possible—maybe even “teaching” student volunteers to conduct the National Anthem when appropriate. It takes a lot of poise to sing it acapella, but with some one to lead—and the rest of us to follow—it’s not quite so daunting. Also, if you belong to a professional music teachers organization (I know they exist for band directors, so I’m guessing the exist for music teachers too), perhaps you can write a letter to the organization’s publication, or get on the agenda for the next meeting to advance the idea. And if you can get on the agenda for veterans service organization (VFW, American Legion, Vietname Veterans, Lions Club, Rotary, Jaycees, Chamber of Commerce, et cetera for a National Anthem pep talk, that will help get the word out, too.

      If you live where there are semi-pro and/or professional sporting teams, then you could approach their management offices about moving toward the idea of everyone singing together instead always selecting a soloist.

      I would not ever want to quash someone’s dream of performing the National Anthem, nor would I want to tell them how to sing it either, but I think the American public is tired and discouraged by high profile performances that abuse the Star Spangled Banner and leave them aching inside. As I wrote to Mr. Rathmell (on this same thread), ” … we have permitted the singing of the National Anthem to turn into this frightening exhibition for both the performer(s) and the observers, and I don’t think anyone is happy about the result.

      Here is what I will do: I’ll see if I can find the U.S. Department of State’s version of the National Anthem, and go from there. And I’ll report back here, and send you and Mr. Rathmell a personal email.

      Thank you so much, and best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

      1. Deborah, you’ve offered great ideas. I’ll have to begin working on some of them. I wonder how many Americans know that there are actually 4 verses to The Star Spangled Banner. I had to do research to find the 4th. Our music books use verses 1,2 and 4. Check them out for the rest of the story.

        Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
        What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
        Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
        O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
        And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
        Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
        Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
        O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

        On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
        Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
        What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
        As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
        Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
        In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
        ‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
        O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

        And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
        That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
        A home and a country should leave us no more!
        Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
        No refuge could save the hireling and slave
        From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
        And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
        O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

        Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
        Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
        Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
        Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
        Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
        And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
        And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
        O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

        1. Hi Sondra. Glad to learn you are ready to go. I’ve been up to my eyebrows in research and have found so much good information. I was rather randomly searching for the National Anthem on various U.S. Embassy websites, and found copies of the sheet music at the embassies in Hungary and Nigeria. So that is a good start. Here is the link to the one in Hungary: http://hungary.usembassy.gov/anthem.html and it is identical to the one on the Nigerian embassy website. I’m not ready to call these copies “official,” because I think the government has purposefully avoided that, but maybe we can call it the preferred melody line. Obviously a full orchestral or band version is going to be much more elaborate, but if we can acknowledge one simple melody line (that permits changes in the key signature as appropriate), then I think that will be significant.

          It will take a week or longer for me to sort out, and organize what I want to write and post on The Daily Flag. I don’t write quickly, although I write a lot. I’m presently reading inside the website at the National Museum of American History (within the Smithsonian museum system). Here is that link: http://amhistory.si.edu/starspangledbanner/the-lyrics.aspx if you want to see where I am.

          More later, Deborah

  176. Would you know if there is protocol that the song should be finished once its started. I am being frustrated at the school that I work at because on the day that they play the National Anthem on the intercom they stop it after …gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”
    To me that is not right!

    1. Hi Sunny. I would be frustrated, too. Being generous, it takes one minute and 20 seconds to play or sing the Star-Spangled Banner, so I am at a loss to understand why any school administration would cut off the Anthem before it could finish playing. The “National Anthem Code” found here, does not say when or where, or how the Anthem should be performed. It addresses personal comportment only. I would have to go ask why they cut if off before it has finished playing. I know the average school office can a wild and crazy place in the morning. Maybe no one in the office realizes that the recording is messed up.

      Thank you for writing, Sunny. I encourage you to go ask what’s going on. While the Code is silent on this bit of etiquette, tradition and common sense tell us to at least play a whole stanza of the National Anthem.

      Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  177. Question: I was just at an Irish dance event that played both the Irish and United States National Anthem’s. I was surprised when the Irish National Anthem was played first before The USA National Anthem. The event was conducted in California, is there a protocol for the order of play?

    1. Hi Forrest. There is a protocol for events like this. The U.S. Department of State tells us to play the anthems of foreign nations first, and the American national anthem last. Company first. Thank you for writing, and best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  178. In a first grade class, the children were sitting in “music circle” and decided to sing the National Anthem It was a spontaneous selection, not planned. There was no music. Should the children have been required to stand? Either standing or sitting, should the have been required to place their hands on their hearts.

    1. Required? Of course not. But it would have been an excellent opportunity for the teacher if he or she had gently explained that when we sing the National Anthem, we are asked to stand and and place the right hand over the heart—as an act of respect for the anthem and the flag. And the moment is not lost, because now that the children have expressed an interest, it’s easy enough to prompt a similar moment. (I do hope there is a flag in the classroom. It’s not required for the National Anthem, but it is for the Pledge of Allegiance.)

      Thank you for writing, Tom
      Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  179. Hi Deborah-
    We’re hosting an event and expect over 1,000 people in attendance, including state representatives and officials. A local choir will be performing the National Anthem, and I am wondering if it’s customary to arrange for a Color Guard to be present. Or are two flags (in stands) at either end of the stage okay?
    Thank you for any advice!

    1. Hi Lauren. My answer won’t help you much, because I can make a case for both: using a Color Guard, or using the flags already set in the stands. Please forgive me while I ramble a bit.

      I am always perplexed when sporting venues use a Color Guard to present the flag, since most of these places have a flag on pole anyway, or one hanging on the wall. But it’s because a Color Guard is grand and beautiful, and we like to see it. There is a misunderstanding, however, about Color Guards. Anyone can carry the flags as a Color Guard. If I want to arrange for three bankers in pin-striped suits and my granddaughter in her best Sunday dress to be a Color Guard, that’s ok. There is a family in Missouri that carries the Colors on horseback for their local Independence Day parade, and they are now using their third generation of riders. It’s perfectly fine and understandable to want a military Color Guard (or a veterans service organization), but I feel like it limits us in our thinking and planning.

      If you are expecting more than 1000 guest at this event, it is possible that out of all those people, there are some who would be most honored to carry the flags. And it could be anyone: class presidents from the high school, pastors, the local family of the year, librarians. Sixth graders. You get the idea. However, don’t let me discourage you from arranging for a military Color Guard. I just wanted to offer you some ideas.

      The case for using the static flags/pole is equally compelling. For the elderly guests in attendance, standing once for the National Anthem is much easier than standing twice (that’s assuming there would be a bit of space between the posting of the flags and the Anthem). Having the flags displayed to start with saves time. In a gathering of this size, it is an important consideration if there are also prayers, honored guests to be recognized, multiple speakers, awards, et cetera.

      If I were arranging this event, I would use the flags on the stage, and not use a Color Guard, but that’s just me. I don’t know what the event is, so you may want the pageantry of a Color Guard. But the flags on the stage are honorable in their own right without the Color Guard, which I think is better used outdoors.

      Thank you for writing. I hope this helps you clarify your decision.

      Best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

  180. I am a Bangladeshi living in Italy. Can I arrange a ceremony in a perk or audotorium where all Bangladeshis gathered will sing Bangladesh National Anthem? Is it allowed in Italy (or any country) to sing formally national Anthem of one country (Bangladesh) in another country (Italy) in a function which is not arranged by Italian authorities or the Embassy of Bangladesh?

    Thanks,

    Hossain

    1. Thank you so much for searching and finding my website. I can’t help you much, because I don’t know anything about the proper etiquette for an event like this in Italy. Perhaps you could ask your local representative to the city counsel for advice. But I would be very surprised if you were told no, and it would be polite and prudent to sing the Italian national anthem along with the Bangladeshi anthem also, since that is where you a living now.
      Best wishes, and I hope you have a lovely ceremony. Deborah Hendrick

  181. As a former 2LT who was taught by the US Army exactly as you have on your website, I thank you for publishing this information.

    1. Thank you Bill, for your kind words. Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  182. My 4 yr old salutes the flag every time the national anthem is played. He preschool teacher told him never to do that again. He is being respectful. Why would she tell him to stop.

    1. Hi Joann. First, give your son a great big hug and kiss from me! I suspect your son’s teacher is terribly misinformed, and she would not be the first.

      The Flag Code and the National Anthem Code are two separate documents included within our great compendium of American law, the U.S. Code. Many—way too many—people don’t know about the National Anthem Code, which was approved by Congress March 3, 1931. Because the Flag Code only addresses the protocol for the Pledge of Allegiance, they don’t know what the proper behavior is during the performance of the National Anthem.

      If your son was saluting the flag with a military-style salute (hand to brow), that technically would have been improper, but I’m willing to give a 4 yr. old child enormous latitude (and more hugs and kisses) since he was no doubt doing what he has seen so often on television.

      Obviously this is an unfortunate situation that has to be corrected, which will require a certain amount of diplomacy. If your son is hearing the National Anthem being played at school, then he is probably learning to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, too, and presumably being taught to hold his right hand over his heart during the Pledge. I call this a “heart salute” to indicate the difference from a military salute—hand to brow. You can explain and demonstrate to your son that when he hears the National Anthem, he can put his hand over his heart.

      I have printed out the entire National Anthem Code below (the rules themselves are short), which includes its location in the U.S. Code (Title 36), and the historical citations and updates, which put the timeline in perspective.

      You need to print this out and share it with the teacher. I feel certain she was never taught the proper decorum.
      I am also including a link to the entire Flag Code (found at Title 4, of the U.S. Code), which is handy to have also, and only takes about 20 minutes to read.
      Flag Code: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2011-title4/html/USCODE-2011-title4-chap1.htm

      Thank you for writing, Joann. Please let me know how this works out.
      Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick
      National Anthem Code:
      http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2011-title36/html/USCODE-2011-title36-subtitleI-partA-chap3-sec301.htm

      36 U.S.C.
      United States Code, 2011 Edition
      Title 36 – PATRIOTIC AND NATIONAL OBSERVANCES, CEREMONIES, ANDORGANIZATIONS
      Subtitle I – Patriotic and National Observances and Ceremonies
      Part A – Observances and Ceremonies
      CHAPTER 3 – NATIONAL ANTHEM, MOTTO, FLORAL EMBLEM1 MARCH, AND TREE
      Sec. 301 – National anthem
      From the U.S. Government Printing Office, http://www.gpo.gov

      §301. National anthem

      (a) Designation.—The composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.

      (b) Conduct During Playing.—During a rendition of the national anthem—

      (1) when the flag is displayed—

      (A) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note;

      (B) members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute in the manner provided for individuals in uniform; and

      (C) all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and

      (2) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.

      (Pub. L. 105–225, Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1263; Pub. L. 110–417, [div. A], title V, §595, Oct. 14, 2008, 122 Stat. 4475.)
      Historical and Revision Notes Revised

      Section
      Source (U.S. Code) Source (Statutes at Large)
      301(a) 36:170. Mar. 3, 1931, ch. 436, 46 Stat. 1508.
      301(b) 36:171. June 22, 1942, ch. 435, §6, 56 Stat. 380; Dec. 22, 1942, ch. 806, §6, 56 Stat. 1077; July 7, 1976, Pub. L. 94–344, §1(18), 90 Stat. 812.
      Amendments

      2008—Subsec. (b)(1)(A) to (C). Pub. L. 110–417 added subpars. (A) to (C) and struck out former subpars. (A) to (C) which read as follows:

      “(A) all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart;

      “(B) men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold the headdress at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and

      “(C) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note; and”.

  183. When walking towards a stadium for a game, how close to the venue should you stop for the National Anthem? We park 4 blocks away (Maybe 3/4 mile).

    1. Those who wrote and codified the protocol for the National Anthem never anticipated this question, Barry. 🙂 The National Anthem takes about 1 minute 15 seconds to play (unless performed by a famous entertainer). The National Anthem Code says if you can hear the music, to stop and salute as appropriate. Obviously the Anthem is being presented for those inside the stadium, not someone on the street three blocks away, but I always think it’s a respectful thing to do. Singing is optional 🙂 Here is a link to the National Anthem Code.

      Thank you for writing and best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

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