Deborah and I were running errands Saturday morning, and darned if a parade didn’t break out in downtown Sattler, Texas (population 30). To be fair, the Canyon Lake area has a population of 29,000 people.
As with all parades, there were flags everywhere, so I got busy taking pictures with my cell phone (I could have sworn the camera was in the car) while Deborah actively watched the parade, standing out front of the Ace Hardware store.
It was a great parade and we enjoyed ourselves very much. Besides horses (riding clubs), there were two marching bands, classic cars (about eight 55-57 Thunderbirds), lots of politicians, and several local organizations represented.
Speaking of flags, it was apparent some of the participants needed to brush up on the U.S. Flag Code. Some of the parade participants displayed the flags improperly, so with that introduction, I would like to give a lecture on parade protocol.
As I’ve written before, the problem appears when the U.S. flag is displayed with other flags. Using the U.S. and Texas flag code as our guide books, I’ll point out the good and the bad from our Christmas parade.
The U.S. Flag Code has plenty to say about parades, with explicit instructions for both those in the parade and those watching.
Section 7 of the Flag Code, titled Position and Manner of Display, begins by describing parade protocol for the flag.
The flag, when carried in a procession with another flag or flags, should be either on the marching right; that is, the flag’s own right, or, if there is a line of other flags, in front of the center of that line.
(a) The flag should not be displayed on a float in a parade except from a staff, or as provided in subsection (i) of this section.
(b) The flag should not be draped over the hood, top, sides, or back of a vehicle or of a railroad train or a boat. When the flag is displayed on a motorcar, the staff shall be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.
(i) When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag’s own right, that is, to the observer’s left. When displayed in a window, the flag should be displayed in the same way, with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street.
The parade Color Guard led off with five flags. At first glance everything looks good, but if you’ll click the picture to see it larger, it isn’t. I can identify four of the flags, and have a guess to the fifth. They are displayed in this order: front row, U.S. flag, riding club flag, Texas flag, followed by a local flag, and the Mexican flag. I will give them credit for having the U.S. flag in the proper place, but the other four are wrong.
Using the U.S. Flag Code in conjunction with the Texas flag code, the flags should have been presented, in order; U.S. flag, Mexican flag,Texas flag, local flag, then the riding club flag.
My suggestion for the best way would be to present the U.S. flag in the lead with a line of the other four flags, in the order I assigned above, in a second row. That would be best the best way to showcase the American flag.
The American flag is to parade right, with the Mexican National flag second, the Texas flag third, then their organization flag on the far left.
This is a positive example of a group taking the time to know and understand the proper display of all the flags involved. They didn’t have to display all four flags, but in doing so, it’s nice to see it done right.
The Shriners, with their variety of little cars and motorcycles participate in a lot of parades, and I applaud this organization for knowing proper flag protocol.
Local VFW Post #8573, which I wrote about on Veteran’s day, used a trailer as a float in the parade. The flags were mounted on the very back of the trailer and technically displayed correctly.
The U.S. flag is mounted in the center and higher than the other two flags. The Texas flag is displayed to the parade’s right (Texas flag code) and the POW-MIA flag to the parade’s left. This meets all the requirements of the U.S. and Texas Flag Codes.
Though their flag display is correct, I think it would be more fitting if the flags were mounted on the front of the trailer, leading the way forward—rather than riding drag (cattle drive reference).
“Clamped to the right fender” is the correct way to display the U.S. flag on a vehicle according to the Flag Code. In the picture, you’ll notice the U.S. flag attached to the right fender and the Texas flag attached to the left fender on the fire truck.
The Texas Flag Code states,
§ 3100.064. DISPLAY ON FLAGSTAFF ON MOTOR VEHICLE. If the state flag is displayed on a flagstaff on a motor vehicle, the staff should be attached firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender. If the flag of the United States and the state flag are displayed on flagstaffs on a motor vehicle:
(1) the staff of the flag of the United States should be clamped to the right fender of the vehicle; and
(2) the staff of the state flag should be clamped to the left fender of the vehicle.
Most of the vehicles displayed the two flags properly.
The photograph at the top of the page shows not only the flags properly displayed, but in the background you’ll see two people respectfully holding the right hand held over the heart, which is correct. Section 9 of the Flag Code addresses this in detail.
Section 9 (in its entirety)
During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the flag is passing in a parade or in review, 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.
Now you know how to act at your next parade. And if you are in charge, make sure the lead Color Guard displays the flags right.
Also, if you get pictures of flags in your local Christmas parade, send them in with narrative and we’ll publish them for everyone’s enjoyment.