Posted on 198 Comments

Veterans salute the flag—clarifying the change in the U.S. Code

April 2, 2009: See updated information at the bottom of this article.

February 13, 2009: See updated information at the bottom of this article.

Many readers have been coming to The Daily Flag looking for information about the change in the U.S. Flag Code that permits military veterans not in uniform to render a hand salute. As originally written into Section 595 Section 594 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, the new law (Public Law No. 110-181 of the United States Code) reads:

by striking “all persons present” and all that follows through the end of the section and inserting the following: “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.”

However, this change in the U.S. Code caused problems, because “saluting the flag” is addressed three times in the U.S. Code, and the legislative change in the law that took place in July 2008 addressed only one— TITLE 4, Chapter 1, Section 9, which is shown above.

It failed to mention Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 4 from the same Chapter 1, which speaks to saluting the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance, and from Title 36—Patriotic and National Observances, Ceremonies, and Organizations, which includes conduct toward the flag during the National Anthem.

Instruction for saluting the the U.S. Flag during the National Anthem is found in a different section of the U.S. Code from where the “Flag Code” is found, and it is sadly, frequently, overlooked.  Many readers comment that they were taught to stand at attention during the National Anthem, but not taught to salute.

Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) sponsored the original legislation in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, and sponsored the amendment that Congress has now passed which clarifies the legislation and brings all three sections of the U.S. Code together to say the same thing —that veterans are now permitted to render a hand salute when the U.S. flag is raised and lowered, passes in review, during the Pledge of Allegiance, and during the playing of the National Anthem.

The amendment: Sponsor of The Veteran’s Salute Provision included in Section 595 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, S. 3001:

Amends Title 36 of the United States Code to allow service members not in uniform to salute the flag during the National Anthem.

-FY08 Authorization Bill modified Section 9 of Title 4, US Code, to allow members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform to render the military salute during hoisting, lowering, or passing of the flag

-While the change made to US Code Title 4 allowed our veterans and service members not in uniform to salute the flag when the flag is raised, lowered, or passing in review, it did not allow them to salute the flag during the National Anthem

With this amendment, all portions of the US Code are now consistent for veterans and military out of uniform, to salute the flag.

Joe Satko 83 salutes American Flag, Juneau AK

Countless veterans have continued to render a military salute to the flag, from the day they first raised their right hand and took an Oath of Allegiance.

This option which allows veterans to salute the flag with a military-style salute is voluntary. Many veterans are pleased by the change in legislation, and many veterans will continue to salute the flag by holding their hands over their heart. I’m glad the U.S. Code now reflects that choice.


It is my intention to update the tabs on The Daily Flag as soon as possible to reflect these changes in the U.S. Code, but I was waiting until I could copy it precisely (the legal citations, dates, et cetera) from the government web site.

Shown above: Mr. J. Satko, 83, salutes the American flag during the Veteran’s Day ceremony at Centennial Hall. Satko served in World War II as a U.S. Army plane mechanic.

Photograph circa 2005 Juneau, AK, from the Satko Family web site.


I stopped writing new articles for The Daily Flag at the beginning of the year, but I still get many emails asking for information, or comments. I have not stayed on top of this story—veterans and out-of-uniform active-duty personnel saluting the flag—but today I received information that needs to be included.

Gen. James T. Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps issued  ALMAR Number: 052/08 on December 17, 2009, which will clarify saluting for all Marines—past, present, and future.

See also: New salute rule not applicable to Marines.



198 thoughts on “Veterans salute the flag—clarifying the change in the U.S. Code

  1. I am grateful for this change,

  2. Thank you for writing Mr. Thompson. I was never in the military, but I can appreciate how the experience would forever change a person—and the longing to hand-salute the flag must be very deep and strong. I’m glad that you now have the opportunity.

  3. […] The amendment: Sponsor of The Veteran’s Salute Provision included in Section 595 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, S. 3001: -Amends Title 36 of the United States Code to allow service members not in uniform to salute the flag during the National Anthem. -FY08 Authorization Bill modified Section 9 of Title 4, US Code, to allow members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform to render the military salute during hoisting, lowering, or passing of the flag -While the change made to US Code Title 4 allowed our veterans and service members not in uniform to salute the flag when the flag is raised, lowered, or passing in review, it did not allow them to salute the flag during the National Anthem The Daily Flag » Blog Archive » Veterans salute the flag—clarifying the change in the U.S. Code […]

  4. […] UPDATE: SEE ALSO—Veterans Salute the Flag—clarifying the change in the U.S. Code […]

  5. Sir,
    Very interesting revisions to the law (which begs the question of how well-crafted the original legislation was!), but still I don’t see guidance regarding one absolutely critical aspect of execution: while in civilian clothing (out of uniform), does the veteran / service member remove unofficial civilian headgear (such as a team baseball cap) prior to rendering the salute? Or is the civilian ballcap (or hat) left in place as the salute is rendered? I certainly see that official or semi-official headgear would be kept in place (such as VFW covers), but males traditionally remove civilian headgear during the National Anthem, and failure to do so might cause some confusion. Can you tell me if the law addresses this aspect? Also please note that some Navy-Marine Corps types will find it awkward to salute WITHOUT a cover (headgear/hat) due to unique traditions of the sea services, and may want the answer to be “leave the hat on”!

  6. Many readers have made comments similar to yours, David, and asked the same question.
    My son, who is a Navy veteran, informs me that he could never hand-salute out of uniform—period. Indoors or out, with cover or without. Not going to do it.

    The problem with this change in the law—as I see it—is that the U.S. Flag Code is a document written for civilians, and compliance is voluntary. The branches of the military have their own flag manuals (and drill manuals) with instructions on flag etiquette and protocol, and compliance is compulsory, not to mention steeped in centuries of history and tradition. I don’t understand how the civilian code could over-ride military code.

    The law as written, does not address the problem of covers. I don’t want to extrapolate too much, but I think it is assumed that the veterans or active-duty personnel would have their heads covered when rendering a hand-salute.

    My best advice for veterans (not in uniform), retired service members (not in uniform), or any active duty military personnel (not in uniform)—is to follow the same rule for saluting the flag that he/she would follow while in uniform and on active duty, in doors or out doors. His behavior toward the flag would be exactly the same way—as if he were wearing a uniform. If he didn’t salute the flag indoors while wearing a uniform, but not wearing a cover, then (I think) he should continue to not hand-salute, but to stand at attention and/or “heart” salute.

    I don’t know how the rules might change for military personnel who are in a war zone (covers on, covers off), as opposed a state-side military base or civilian gathering, but (in my opinion) whatever is or was appropriate to the location and occasion—while formerly or normally wearing a uniform—remains the best method.

    Meanwhile, I have contacted Sen. Inhofe’s office to ask for more information.

    Thank you for writing David.

    Best Wishes,
    Deborah Hendrick

  7. This issue of saluting when “Covered or not covered;” “in civilian clothes or uniform”… is for the most part TOTAlLY misunderstood by so many of you.

    You, as American Citizens, have the right to honor the flag in whatver way suits you…as long as you violate no laws against desecration of the flag…and there are too few of those.

    ALL Veterans were ALWAYS given the option of saluting. Who would ever tell them not to???

    The new ‘Law” changes nothing…just states what is…a common practice.

    I have saluted, and will always salute my flag……in uniform or out…covered or not. I, and all my fellow veterans have earned that right.

    Stop quibbling over nonsense…you always had this right……

    RADM Bepko

    1. I hope the lady at the games ,get’s the same respect she showed the world at playing of her Nat’l Anthem , a complete disrespect for her country,when she gets home, kinda wish it was somewhere else!!!. Salute

  8. RADM Bepko has the best answer I have heard. As a sailor in WWII I was drilled in saluting no one unless I was covered (hat on) and not to be covered indoors unless in a formation. Again I am grateful for the clarification. former ETM2C Thompson, USS Tortuga, LSD 26.

  9. RADM Bepko is certainly correct, but the legislation nevertheless has a beneficial component – it converts a previously unregulated custom that might nevertheless have been viewed by some observers as “drama-king” or “look-at-me” behavior into a generally recognized practice.

  10. Though I served in the 24 years in the Air Force and not the Navy, I would take the advice of a two-star (RADM) over almost any civilian and many others also.
    As one post says, “I am grateful for the clarification.”
    MSgt Goodrich, USAF, Ret.

  11. @RADM John Bepko – RADM Bepko, I am a former Army officer. So former, I can’t even remember some of the rules. I am going to a pro basketball game tonight, which is onbviosly indoors. I am interested in your opinion. Is a salute appropriate indoors?

    Thank you, sir.

  12. Please tell me, are there similar saluting regulations for active, retired, and previous DoD or DA Civil Servants? They, too, are/were Government employees. Thanks.

  13. Valerie, this is way out of my knowledge area. I will have to do some research. Many federal employees wear uniforms, and hand-salute the flag while in uniform—USDA Forest Service for example, or the Capitol police force. But I’ve never seen anything that would permit them to continue with a hand-salute in retirement.

    Military personnel take an oath of enlistment: I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. (So help me God.) The National Guard (Army and Air) take a slightly different oath.

    Do any federal employees take a similar oath? I will have to ask.

  14. I am so glad that the rules were changed so a veteran can salute the flag .My wife and i are proud that in our day we were both able to serve our country .This is what our family continue to do today.

    1. Hi Chuck—My thanks to both you and your wife, for your service to our country. I’m glad you have a choice now in how you choose to salute the flag.
      Best Wishes, Deborah

  15. I am very glad they have clerified this issue. Now my husband can’t tell me not to give a military style salute.
    All Government employees do take an oath of office but most of us do not wear a uniform. Also we are to treat the Flag with the same respect as the general public.
    Thank you for the information you have presented and for letting a Service Connected Army Vet have her say.

  16. @David M. Kennedy
    Hi David. Did you ever receive clearification on your question about the civilian head gear situation? At times I ware a “cowboy” hat and would like to know the rulling on this question. Presently I remove my hat and salute. I need to know which is the correct way?
    Thanks for any information you may have received on this matter.
    If possiable , e-mail your response to me at

  17. One aspect not addressed anywhere that I could find was the issue of saluting in silence. If you opt to salute, it is MY understanding, you are at attention and therefore not speaking or singing. When our unit’s choir sang the National Anthem in uniform and outside and covered, we did not render salutes, as we were “performing” the anthem, and therefore were only in the position of attention, but not saluting. I suspect, if one opts to show respect by saluting, one then would give up the option of singing the Anthem? This doesn’t apply, of course, to the raising or lowering of the flag in most cases. Though, it would also impact the use of salute during the pledge of allegiance, in my opinion.

    Does anyone know if there are any conventions that allow for speaking or singing while rendering a salute, other than commands?

    Jared Handspicker
    TSgt, USAF, Retired.

    1. Hi Jared,
      My recommendation for the veteran who chooses to render a military salute, is to behave the very same way you would behave if you were active-duty. Military personnel do not sing the National Anthem while saluting, nor do they join in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance while saluting. If the veteran wants to sing, or recite the pledge, then it’s probably best to salute the flag with the hand over the heart.
      Thank you for writing, and Best Wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

  18. Just came across this and there is one situation where one doesn’t salute the flag as outlined in the change: The Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) has issued a clarification for Marines. Under NO circumstances – unless they are in uniform – will Marines (retired, in civilian clothing, prior service, etc.) execute a hand salute while the flag is being raised or lowered, passing by in a parade, or the National Anthem being played. If they are covered with a veteran’s type hat they will remove the cover with their right hand and place it over their heart. Inddors they will salute with their hand over their heart. Semper Fi!

    1. Thank you so much, Tommy, for this new information. I have added links to the Commandant’s message regarding the USMC’s regulations on this topic to the article above.

  19. Mr. grunwell: I am wondering if you and the commandant are working under the old adage of once a marine always a marine? I have read the almar of december 08 and see no mention of retired, discharged, prior service etc. Only in that belief would the Commandant have any say regarding the actions of seperated marines.

    I seperated over 15 years ago and never stopped conducting myself in the presence of the National Colors as I had while active with the exception that I no longer wore the uniform.

    I beileive that as long as we’re all honoring the stars and bars and not disrepecting that symbol of what we served for, what does it matter?

  20. I am an Emergency Medical Technician/ I am sometimes in formal uniform ( dress shirt and pants etc) I will sometimes attend functions where the national anthem is played or the flag is displayed/ Is it appropriate for me to render the hand salute? I was trying to clarify this since in my opinion I am in “public Service”

    Thank You

    1. Bill—I personally believe that the hand salute is an identifying distinction that should be reserved for the military and veterans. This does not mean that a heart salute is any less honorable and respectful than a hand salute. I have spent my lifetime saluting the flag by holding my hand over my heart, and I don’t think any military person or veteran would tell me that my salute was less important or less valid than theirs.

  21. @RADM John Bepko – I’m sorry but the law as written in the U.S. Code governing flag saluting tops a general’s opinion even if he is a Marine. I served 7 years in the Navy, Vietnam and all. I will salute in honor of MY flag any way I choose, always have, always will, regardless of covered or not, inside or out. I’m with you RADM Bepko.

  22. The Federal civil servant oath of office, direct from the OPM website is as follows:

    I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
    5 U.S.C. §3331

    Unlike some Presidents, most political appointees (both parties) and most senior executive service leaders in Washington, DC, I took it seriously and battled them everyday!
    @Deborah Hendrick

  23. @bill jordan

    In reply to Bill Jordan, EMT, about non-Federal civil servants rendering honors when in uniform:

    The rendering of honors via a hand salute by non-Federal civil servants in uniform has come to be accepted. The Boy Scouts of America, etc., render a modified hand salute rather than the military salute; i.e. back of hand presented with thumb and fingers aligned. The Scouts purposefully do not use the military salute in recogniton of the honor it holds, an honor they have not earned by not serving in the military. The Armed Forces of the US salute holds very high military significance because it shows our country has never been defeated in a declared war and we have never surrendered; thus we can present the back of our hand in a military salute while most other countries must present the front of their hands, indicating they have been defeated and surrendered at some point in time. A little history for those not having been in the military or taught the history.

    Another practice, draping the flag of the US over the caskets of police officers, firefighters, and other non-military, non-federal civil servants or politicians during their memorials is technically not allowed by the U.S. Code (do a search at and you will see results from 4 USC, 10 USC, 32 USC, 38 USC and others), even if they died in the line of duty. Heroic and deserving of our utmost respect they are, yet technically their caskets should have been draped by a state or municipal flag unless they were veterans.

    In my mind 9/11 has changed all of that and the law should be amended to include this practice.

  24. Originally Posted By Valerie WardPlease tell me, are there similar saluting regulations for active, retired, and previous DoD or DA Civil Servants? They, too, are/were Government employees. Thanks.

    Federal Civil Servants are civilians, thus have not earned the privelege to render military honors. They are expected, by law in USC 4, to render honors befitting a proud citizen, standing and placing their right hand over their heart (unlike our current President when he was a candidate). However, uniformed officers, police officer, park rangers, etc., typically the sworn officers, are expected to stand at attention and render a hand salute at the appropriate occassion.

  25. Originally Posted By Carl Nash@RADM John Bepko – I’m sorry but the law as written in the U.S. Code governing flag saluting tops a general’s opinion even if he is a Marine. I served 7 years in the Navy, Vietnam and all. I will salute in honor of MY flag any way I choose, always have, always will, regardless of covered or not, inside or out. I’m with you RADM Bepko.

    Roger That, Carl! Thank you for your service.

    In regards to everyone’s comments about the Marine Commandant: With all due respect to the position, if true the incumbent Marine Commandant officially countermanded a law passed by Congress and signed by the President, he is violating the Constitution, federal statute (US Code), his oath of office, and common sense.

    I remember being told in Basic Training in 1976 that as long as we had an Honorable Discharge we could wear our Class A uniform (what the Army and Air Force call their dress uniforms) at military funerals, patriotic occasions, etc. This was most recently codified in Department of Defense INSTRUCTION NUMBER 1334.01, October 26, 2005, at My father, a World War II, Korean Era, and Cold War Era Army veteran was buried in his Class A uniform 16 years after he retired. I personally pinned his ribbons and medals on before we closed the casket. I shaved, got a GI haircut, and wore my Class A uniform to his funeral, barely three much too short months after I received my Honorable Discharge. Guess what Commandant; I rendered him the best damn nine-second “Slow Salute” I could upon the presentation of Taps by a full US Army Honor Guard.

    I will not be buried in uniform because I served much longer as a federal civilian, so my uniform was a suit and tie. The flag that draped my father’s coffin will drape mine, then be passed to my nephew who was in the Marines. I have a plot reserved in a state veterans cemetary and I’ll get a Veteran’s Adminstration gravestone. Having my mortal remains rest with comrades, many who made the supreme sacrifice for love of their country and most probably much braver than I, will be the greatest honor I will ever receive.

    Rules? Marine Commandant? I’m with the Admiral: “Stop quibbling over nonsense…you always had this right……”

  26. I have received a message, today (02Apr09) from the CNO, date-time group 012345Z Apr 09, that tells sailors that they can only salute when in uniform. I’m not aware that the head of a service branch can contravene a federal law. The USMC has sent out the same instruction. I plan on saluting whenever I can.

    1. Thank you, John, for this information. I will add this to the article.

  27. Section 594 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009,
    Section 595 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009

    595 refers to veteran re-employment

    1. Good Eye, Todd! Thank you for the correction.

  28. I need to find out where it states when Reveille or Retreat is sounded , the indiviual stands at attention while indors. Please help me locate this informaition

  29. I served in the Army over 25 years ago. I almost always rendered a hand salute to the Flag of My Country. I had been told on a couple of occasions that this was inappropriate. I would usually simply point out that as a Veteran it was my privilage to render a hand salute to my flag. I am grateful for the clarification. It is only by diligence that our counrty can survive. My best to all of you, My Eternal Gratitude to those of you that Served.

  30. I am a Marine. I served on active duty from December 1958 thru December 1962. I will offer a hand salute to Our Colors when passing and during The Playing of The National Anthem when I am covered. When not covered I will stand at Attention and place my right hand over my left breast. Semper Fi

  31. Every time Congress passes or changes a law confusion is usually the action for the day. Aside from the decorum and tradition many place upon the flag there are some values that as a veteran I hold higher than the letter of the law. It is my eternal remembrance for those who so courageously suffered to assure liberty and the voice we are able to express. It is for those who were my brothers and sisters who are no longer standing, but for their action neither would I. Regardless of some general’s interpretive mandate, a law maker’s stroke of a pen, or what ever may be enforced as time changes I salute those whose faces will follow me for eternity and all that have taken up arms to defend those who could not.

  32. The USMC Commandant did not mention Marine Veterans in his message regarding the Hand Salute. May we assume Marine Veterans (former Marines who are not retired) can follow the new law and hand salute uncovered?
    LtCol Harry Staszewski (former Marine)

    1. Harry, frequently I am forced to parse every word in the U.S. Code that pertains to proper flag etiquette and protocol, and still must extrapolate the meaning on some occasions. And there are a few differences between the U.S. Flag Code, and military flag code; those distinctions cannot be overlooked. As a former Marine—a Marine who has gone before—you alone must decide what Gen. Conway meant when he wrote:


  33. Deborah:

    Thank you for your very insightful response. I have given this subject much thought. Your reply, among other considerations, have helped me make my decision.
    I will continue to follow Marine Corps tradition and customs. Remember: “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” Members of the Naval Service do not salute uncovered or out of uniform.
    There is one exception to this rule. It is not relevant to this discussion.
    Semper Fidelis. Go Navy.
    LtCol Harry Staszewski (former Marine)

    1. Thank you Harry, for writing. This is a topic that engenders strong feelings and opinions.

  34. I’ve read with great vigor the comments. I am glad of the clarification of the new law.

    I spent over 10 years active and reserve Navy and now have over 6 years with the Air Force Reserve. Saluting traditions and customs have always been slightly different between the Navy/Marines and the Army/Air Force.

    The N/MC require you never salute in uniform unless covered. Although you’re not to salute indoors, formal formations are covered and therefore saluting is required when appropriate, such as the National Anthem and award ceremonies.

    The A/AF are never covered indoors. Yet, one is expected to render a salute when appropriate, such as award ceremonies and reporting to a senior officer.

    All services have areas which are designated “no salute” areas for various reasons.

    Veterans groups have their own official headgear and follow various saluting traditions, usually a mix of the various branches. Outdoors when covered usually results in a salute as if in a formal military uniform.

    I don’t believe the higher authorities in the N/MC have the authority to countermand federal law even over a minor issue as saluting in civilian attire. As a veteran/reservist, the military has no authority over civilian practice while not in a pay status. But what qualifies as a “veteran” for one on active duty? Do you need to be past your first term? Do you have to be completely separated? Do you need to only complete 180 days of active duty? How about basic training?

    I am disturbed over the comments, especially by Marines, that they will not comply, since that is how they were trained. Apparently traditions are inviolate and cannot be changed. Really. Hazing was a well-respected tradition for well over 100 years in various forms. After the Tailhook incident, sexual harassment was taken seriously to the point that the policy that the Department of the Navy adopted was also adopted by DoD. The policy adopted for federal civilian employees was just about the exact same. Eventually, the Supreme Court allowed the same provisions to apply to all citizens.

    Yet, hazing still occurred. Commandant Krulak, when faced with video of a Marine getting “initiated” was so upset at the behavior that he issued a public statement that would have been fraught with obscenities had he not carefully crafted his statement in advance. I can only imagine what he said when he first saw the video.

    Effectively, what we see as tradition is often not. We all took an oath which stated that we “would obey the orders of those appointed over me”. So if the law states that a veteran may salute when appropriate in civilian attire, then do it. But the law only states “may”. It is not mandatory. Each branch has slightly different customs and courtesies and is often the hardest thing for a service member to learn going from one branch to another. But they have the effect of being a lawful order.

    We have members of all branches in my AF Reserve unit. One former Marine in particular still has the same military bearing and another, well, you could never guess he was a Marine. That is until you see him receive and award. The Marines, former or otherwise, always have the sharpest salutes and facing movements. It always irks me when others don’t look as sharp. I always try to look sharp. It was the way I was taught. I don’t care if my fellow Sailors or Airmen don’t look as sharp. Actually I do, but I endeavor to set the example.

    I have the option to salute in a civilian status. I intend to whenever the opportunity presents itself. I had questions before, now I have an official answer.

    Shame on any commanders who punish their members who salute in civilian status. New traditions, customs and courtesies sometimes take some getting used to, but if we learned anything, it is that change is constant.

    1. I am disturbed over the comments, especially by Marines, that they will not comply, since that is how they were trained.

      Dear Mr. Krawitz,

      Perhaps you misunderstood—no veteran of any stripe or branch of the Armed Forces is compelled to use a military salute under any circumstance. It is strictly voluntary. A heart salute (which is how I salute the flag) is always, and will always be—an appropriate salute (so help us God). Who among us thinks it is less?

      I am not a veteran, and my personal opinion is not important. But I understand and appreciate the most compelling reasoning on both sides of the debate.

  35. I have read all of your comments, but still do not have a good answer to my question. I am a Scout Leader and have been for many years. We have a salute that is different from a military salute and have many different rules of when to salute and when not to. My question for all these honored veterans who think they have the right to salute in any clothing they wear. I see many times that fathers of kids in my troop will salute with a fishing hat or hat that says something cute on it or I have even seen a Homer Simpson hat. I truly do appreciate the great sacrifice these men and women have made for our country but feel there should be a stipulation that a non uniformed veteran retired or not, should remove a hat that is not part of the united states military dress code. I too remove my hat if it is not an official Scout uniform hat. We either put the hat in our back pocket and salute, if in uniform, or place the hat over our heart. If we allow any hat to be worn during a flag ceremony then don’t we give those who are wearing hats that have a burning flag on it the right to wear theirs? There should be a stipulation to section 594 to guard against the misuse of the rules. I agree that any man or woman who serves for our great country should be able to salute at any flag ceremony or singing of the National anthem. I just have an issue with saluting my great Flag with a dirty, tattered, led zeppelin hat on your head. We in the Boy Scouts of America are teachers of young minds and try to install in them that our veterans are to be honored and shake their hands when we see them saluting at a ball game or at a Flag Retirement Ceremony and thank them for their service to our country. These boys have to remove any hat that is not an official Scout hat, and there are only a few that are official. Should I tell them that the Veteran can salute in any hat he dam well pleases? Come on. I will continue to ask people to remove their hats for the Pledge of Allegiance to our great flag.

    1. I appreciate your dilemma, Jim. My husband was a Scoutmaster, and my son is an Eagle Scout and a Navy veteran. I don’t speak for them, but I can speak for myself and know that they will agree with me.

      You keep on doing what you are doing. Teach them what every word of the Scout Oath means. Make them understand that the Scout Law is not just for now, but is forever. Teach them to love and respect our country, our flag, and our veterans. You have a hand in teaching them how to be men. If you must reprove with one hand, be sure to praise with the other hand.

      You cannot control the poor examples they see, but Scouts can be a good example for others. Encourage them to always salute the flag properly, and according to the circumstances. Most of all, advise them to keep their eyes on the flag.

      For your more immediate concern, I suggest writing to Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma with your concerns. Perhaps it is time for him to publish an open letter to all veterans—to clarify, advise, and elaborate on the responsibility that comes with this unique legislative privilege for saluting the flag. Write to every veterans organization you can find, and encourage them to remind their members of proper decorum when saluting the flag.

      I know it’s not a good answer, Jim, but it’s the only answer I have.

  36. Jim

    You are entitled to your opinion, and I too, admire your dedication to the BSA: my son earned Eagle, my daughter, Silver (Girl Scout). Should a veteran be allowed to salute in any hat they choose? You bet your smores! I’m the black sheep (or the smart one) in my family: my parents and brother were USN; I’m retired USAF. If one looks beyond the attire, they find the composure, the presence, that these men and women display when executing the hand salute, speaks volumes. I’d much rather hear a 5 yr old’s not so quiet voice, “Mommy, why is that man saluting?” (while pointing to a guy in jeans, tshirt, and BEER hat), or better yet, see the youngin follow suit, than to see and hear others continue with what they were otherwise doing during the playing of the National Anthem. My two cents

  37. Please reread #7 above by RADM John Bepco. “Stop quibbling over nonsense…you always had this right,”

  38. Maybe we were always able to salute but now it is official. That is what I like, Official!
    I was also a Scout Master and taught them about saluting the flag and flag edicate. It was rather strange with me being the first female scout master in our troop, council, and district. I decided that if the men did not or could not then I would!

  39. I find it interesting that since this legislation was passed that the heads of two branches of the armed forces issued orders stating that their respective branches of service would be following the standing traditions of hand-over-heart and removing of covers while not in uniform. While I was glad to see this right reinforced with recent legislation, I personally will hold to the orders issued by my respective commanders. But, as many of you have pointed out, that is my choice.

    I think what is important is not the position of our hands during the National Anthem, but the position of our hearts. We veterans have served and many have bled for our nation. It does not matter to me whether my hand is at my eyebrow or over my heart, my eyes are filled with tears at the very notion of “The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.”

    Honor the flag. Honor the nation. Honor those who have served. Honor those who are serving. Pass on that same honor to the “youngin’s” watching others during the Anthem. Let’s make sure we are being honorable and allow others the freedoms to choose their method of salute. That is what they served for.

    Off my soap box. Thank you.

  40. Is it proper to leave your baseball hat, or any hat other than a uniform hat on during the National Anthem or the Pledge of Alligence? Also, is it proper to leave your hat on when the flag is raised, as long as you are a veteran and you salute the flag?

    1. Hi Pat, thank you for writing.

      On ALL occasions where “saluting” is customary and proper: Civilian men who are not veterans should remove all head coverings and salute with a “heart” salute by placing the right hand over the heart. Women do not have to remove their head coverings, and should heart salute. Veterans and active-duty military personal are allowed to render a military-style salute (hand to brow) whether in uniform or out, covered or uncovered—-bearing in mind that the Marine Corp and the Navy have strongly advised against saluting out of uniform.

      Thanks, Deborah

  41. I would surmise that if you salute remaining covered would make sense if one is so attired. I often wear my unit patch on a ball cap, so I guess I am already breaking the rules. However, it was customary when the men wore civilian dress hats to remove them when placing their hands over their hearts. Were as, the women would remain covered in their church acceptable bonnets and hats while covering their hearts. These days the attire and customs have all changed, and with the debauchery of the political circle that be, saluting at all may be superfluous as a mark to the nation. For me, it is in remembrance and great honor to those who are fallen and who served, suffering much, that I salute. Every time I go to the VA Clinic for my medical issues, I am moved, albeit that my needs as a woman are foreign to many there. However, but for them, I would have certainly not faired so well in my tour. I will always hold gratitude and thanks to my brothers and sisters with whom I have served. – Estelle LeClaire

    1. Estelle, thank you for your service, and thank you for your comments.

  42. Did you ever get that clarification you were looking for regarding hats and salutes by veterans? I would like to give proper guidance to fellow veterans attending our local HOG chapter meetings as it regards the Pledge of Allegiance.

    1. Hi Jerry. As you know, by legislation and through personal choice, all veterans are now permitted to render a traditional military hand salute to the flag. However, the change in the law and subsequent amendment did not specifically address conduct during the Pledge of Allegiance (I made a mistake in the article I wrote, and I think the amendment “made” a mistake because it did not specifically mention the Pledge of Allegiance. I do not believe however, that a second amendment will be written to “amend” this oversight.)

      Military personnel in uniform do not recite the Pledge of Allegiance because they have taken an more encompassing oath of allegiance to the country. However, they do salute during the Pledge of Allegiance, while others recite the Pledge.

      For veterans, who have been reciting the Pledge of Allegiance for a long time—while saluting the flag with a heart salute—the opportunity to now render a hand salute presents an awkward problem. The protocol for the Pledge of Allegiance is found in Section 4 of the U.S. Flag Code and reads:

      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.)

      Again, it comes back to a personal choice for the veteran:
      1. The veteran can stand at attention, render a hand salute, and remain silent while other recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Presumably there will be enough people present who are not veterans, who will be reciting the Pledge.
      2. The veteran can stand at attention, render a heart salute, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance with all the others.

      There is a third choice, and that is for the veteran to do both: stand at attention, render a traditional military hand salute, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance too. I personally think it would feel very awkward to do this, but I am not a veteran.

      Jerry, I searched through many veteran blogs and threads, and could not find this particular situation addressed by veterans themselves. But the solution remains the same—and it is one of those three choices I outline above.

  43. I salute the flag to honor those who have given of themselves to ensure that liberty and freedom is an American right and heritage. Yet, it is just a flag. Aside from those who represent the heart of this people and those who have put everything on the line, and my personal commitment to the principles upon which I, my lineage, and those with whom I served to up hold that Liberty and Freedom, the whole issue of protocol is meaningless to me. Every nation ever formed had its time of gatherings where the people lined up in throngs and wave their flags, cheering and crying over their national symbol. The German people swarmed around the swastika and sung with tears in their eyes to the glory of the father land. In the streets of Paris were heard the cheers to a Napoleonic Emperor and a waving flag. Stalin and all of his thugs, as the many others who stood under the red banner also with pomp and luster garnered the adulation and thrill of the peoples mustering. Me? Well, I am more the one who could say, “Stuff it!” I remember the faces of those with whom I served, and the smart aleck smirk each of us had while we carried out our missions. The private who had his cigarettes rolled up in his shirt sleeve and just gave the lieutenant a backhanded salute as he climbed out of his carrier didn’t care about pomp. Those who had been in the field for weeks returning to post and base to discover that they were having a parade, had other ideas. A while back I was at an event out in the Northland and I was wearing my old field cap. It was something that I wore when I was doing my duty, and something that I wear when I am with others who have done theirs. You know, I was not really a great soldier. I am simply someone who grew up on a farm, joined the Army to do a job, and then went on to do other things. Anyway, the color guard came by and I still was wearing that camo’ cap when some guy told me to remove it. I just gave him the look, “the look” I used to give when I was in the military and knew my role. He understood, and we both stood there remembering the faces of those whom we valued from our past. That same silly smirk when one of the crew would smuggle a case of beer and other goodies to share with the squad. A very special family……

    My point? This country is about people, people who care for other people more than they care for themselves; or at least that is how it used to be!

    Estelle : )

  44. After 26 years of paying honor to our flag in uniform with a hand salute it feel right to keep doing after retirement. Great job!

  45. Ms. Hendrick –

    Thank you for all your work on this issue. It obviously is one one which many have profound feelings, including myself.

    Irrespective of where one comes out on this issue for Veterans, there is a movement afoot to develop a simple, easily recognizable means of showing gratitude to those in the military serving our country.

    Here is the information I have on this, and a link to a touching illustrative video:

    This is pretty neat…..(30 second video)… Have you ever seen one of our

    military walking past you and wanted to convey to them your thanks, but

    weren’t sure how, or it felt awkward?

    Recently, a gentleman from Seattle created a gesture which could
    be used to express your thanks and has started a movement to get
    the word out..

    Please everybody take just a moment to watch….. The Gratitude Salute
    …and then forward it to your friends!


    1. Thank you for sending this information. I need to make a post with it. Best Wishes, Deborah

  46. As a retired U.S. Army veteran I salute the flag proudly, both indoors & out, during the playing of the National Anthem as well as the Pledge of Allegiance. I do this with pride, covered, indoors or out. We knew what the requirements (privileges) were then, so why the hell would we want to change them now, thanks to Senator James Inhofe. If questioned, I will respond, and then inform you (if you are a veteran) of your right (or requirement) to salute. Again, thank you Senator Imhofe.

    CSM Jon Reitz (Ret)

  47. Since I left the military I have always held my hand over my heart for the flag and then, at the end, rendered a salute to her. I did this because I had been taught to only salute when in uniform. I’m glad to hear of this change since I feel that a crisply rendered salute shows my respect to my nation and my pride in having served her. I’m not doing this to get people to look at me – just to let my flag know that I still support her.

  48. How does this legislation apply to Marine veterans? According to Marine Corps regulations, while on Active Duty and not in uniform, a Marine will stand at the position of attention, with their right hand placed above their heart (headgear removed). So does this legislation authorize Marine Corps veterans to render a hand salute? The question goes further due to Marine Corps regulations requiring any Marine to NOT render a salute unless they were covered (wearing headgear) or under arms. Since most Marine veterans will no longer be under arms, this raises the question about how this legislative change will impact us.

    Any thoughts?


    Greg McNeil.

    1. Hi Greg. I apologize for the delay in getting to your question.

      As a veteran, you have been given congressional authority to salute if you want to. As a Marine veteran—if you want—you can voluntarily choose to follow Gen. James T. Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps who wrote:


      Greg, I encourage you to read all the comments that have been left here. I think they will help you reach a decision.

  49. Even though after leaving the service and being out of uniform one may feel they are still part of the body, they are not. That is one is not active, at duty, or under UCMJ, and again is a civilian. Hence, military regulation is not applicable. As a matter of honor for having served, a veteran is allowed to salute as was the custom within the service, but allowed to do so as a civilian in civilian attire.

    Again, I speak for myself, as I was often found bending the rules, but I salute those who I remember and those who have paid the most for those of us who enjoy Liberty and the Freedom to use our voice.

    Estelle 🙂

  50. Has a law been passed stating a veteran can salute the flag with hat on inside a building .

    1. Robert, I have not been actively following the ‘veterans saluting’ news, but I am not aware of any new laws regarding changes in saluting protocol.

  51. Deborah, As ex-military I have wanted to salute the flag while in civilian clothes. I was told that was forbidden when I was discharged. Saluting the flag, to me, is the highest honor I can pay to the flag an all the former military, living and dead. I am so glad now to know that it is permitted; I plan to do it regularly.

    Few understand the pride, honor and dignity felt and displayed by our military personnel, active and non-active. The flag is part of that, indivisible like our nation.

    I am very proud to have service my country honorably and would do it again in a heartbeat.

    Harold (Pappy) Harmon
    U.S.A.F. 1959-1963

  52. With regards to the discussion of being “covered” or “uncovered” – as a female, there are very few occasions when I find myself wearing a cover, especially when I would be attending an honored event like our upcoming Veterans Day celebration. The very fact that the the regulation assumes veterans are wearing civilian clothes means that a cover would be strictly optional. I do not feel that should prevent me from being able to render a salute to the flag that I served honorably for 14 years. So you can bet that I will be saluting at our outdoor flag raising this Wednesday!

  53. If one reviews the code at the very beginning of this string of comments it is clear as to Uniform and Civilian attaire, and options. Key word is “may” that is used in the prescription of tendering a salute and or hand over heart. If not a veteran, hence no salute, and out of uniform, it is hat at left shoulder and hand at heart. Again, as a woman veteran, I salute, and it is to those with whom we have served with that I honor. Moreover, the principles and liberty that has come at so high a price.
    Side note: TN has now issued a Women Veteran license plate. One now adorns my bumper and is drawing a lot of attention.


  54. Sure is a lot of reading over something ment to be so simple. I spent time in two branches and served on active duty for 23 years. When on active duty, I followed the regulations of the Branch I was serving at the time. The purpose for changing the code / law was to let (veterans) know that by serving their country in the United States Military, they have earned the right to render a military salute during the raising, lowering or passing of my flag, during the National Anthem, or during the Pledge of Allegiance. As written the salute given by a veteran (not currently in the service) is while covered or un-covered in any type or style of clothing. Having the right doesn’t mean you have to. Either way, salute or hand over the heart is ment to show respect and is accepted as such. It is the individuals decision. As far as what the commander of your Branch of Service decides, that is also up to you the veteran.
    As for me, my President signed into law my right to salute and that is exactly what I am going to do.
    If a veteran is showing respect for his flag, his country or his comrade, only a bean counter question it.
    3 years USMC, 20 years Army
    18 years Federal Law Enforcement
    1 year playing golf and fishing.

  55. I was a member of the Air Force for just under 5 months and was Medically discharged due to an injury while in training. According to the Military, I am unable to claim Veteran Status because I was not in for a minimum of 6 months. My question is, Am I permitted to SALUTE the flag as a Veteran is now allowed?


    1. Ron, your question is beyond my scope of authority. All I can advise is let your heart and conscience be your guide. However, many veterans read here—maybe they can counsel you. Best Wishes, Deborah

  56. Ron, This is a tough question; but, I believe that you can salute the flag even though you served only 5 months honorably. The medical discharge should not change that.
    It was always my understanding that we only had to complete Boot Camp to be considered as having served in the military. Maybe someone else can speak to this issue.

    Anyway, I would suggest you let your heart dictate your actions. You obviously feel a lot of pride in what you were able to accomplish. Besides, the salute is a way of rendering respect to our flag.

    Good luck,

    Pappy Harmon
    U.S.A.F. 1959-1963

  57. As a former Korean USN vet, who has served only four years from 1952 to 1956, and Honorably Discharged, It has always been my wish to be able to render a hand salute at the passing, raising and setting of the colors and the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem. Seeing that it is MY RIGHT to do so, I WILL render the hand salute at every applicable time that it would be appropriate as if I were still in uniform. My thanks to one and all who have served, for my Freedom. Thank You

    Dan Healy, USN ADE2,
    Korean Conflict

  58. As an Army veteran, it is indeed a pleasure as well as an honor to render a hand salute. Our years of sacrifice to this great country afforded us this right. In our hearts, minds, and spirits; we will always be a part of the Armed Forces, for life.

  59. In this season, we might think of those who have served a very short time, and never survived basic traning or AIT. It is an honor to answer the call, regardless of the action one might have endured. No Soldier or frontline Warfighter would have survived had not others been faithful to deliver the necessary supplies and support. Likewise, in this time of year we should remember our Brothers (And Sisters) who are struggling in uniform, as well as those who are now civilian. Moreover, especially those who returned and have never been able to reengage; broken, maimed, and alone. They living in less than deserving care, under bridges and roaming the streets unable to let go, or move on; in many cases without healthcare. To all, we can give honor and hopefully relief. Estelle:)

  60. […] a press release issued in 2008 by the Department of Veterans Affairs and another from a group that monitors issues related to the flag. The sites explain the change and provide reference to the specific federal […]

  61. When to render a salute to the flag: Do you salute the flag indoors when the National Anthem is played, in uniform or not??? What is appropriate???

    1. The law which now permits veterans to salute the flag does not provide any specifics. In my attempt to explain what I thought was appropriate saluting for veterans, according to the circumstances (what I thought was logical based on pre-existing military protocol), has been soundly defeated in the comments (I hope you read them all).

      You are free to salute the flag whenever, where ever, and however you want. My only suggestion is that you make sure your salute is unmistakably that of a Veteran.

      The highest officers in the Navy and Marines have asked that their veterans (and active duty personnel) continue to follow Navy and Marine traditions and use a heart salute if not in uniform. This order has been met with a mixed response, as you might expect.

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

  62. I too am thankful for the change. Since my oath upon entering the U.S. Air Force had no expiration date, I am still sworn to uphold the Constitution and am proud to salute the flag which represents our Republic.

    In civilian clothes I now salute with pride as I did on active duty.
    I am proud of my service and am proud to be an American.

  63. Oh Dear!

    I was at an air show in Lakeland Fl recently and they had a flag presentation by the combined Army and Air Jump teams along with the Anthem. I was in my civi’s with a large brimmed sun hat. I took the attentive position with a hand salute, and my date questioning me and my explaining, then also assumed same. Interesting in that there were military and many around us who in their own fashion demonstrated a variety of responses. And regardless of law, the many times flawed military leadership, and individual preferences of those who hold to traditions, I am so glad to see people, citizens, and even illegal aliens recognize the flag. Not for the flags sake mind you, but for the service and sacrifice of those who have served, and for the wonderful blessing we have enjoyed under God and the Constitution.

    Decorum? …. Oh Dear!

    Estelle R. LeClaire

    1. I must say Estelle, snapping off regulation salute underneath a large-brimmed sun hat must have been difficult! But I know in my heart you did it with precision and love. I always appreciate your comments. All the best, Deborah

  64. Deborah, I have three sons. one of which is a “Butter Bar” in the Army. So, I hold special honor for my military brethren in more ways than one. And with solemn care the memory of those who have sacrificed their lives for the Liberty and Freedoms we enjoy is always upon my heart. Yet, in all of this I try to promote something that many seem to overlook, and that is celebration of our American “uniqueness!” During my service it was amazing how many different ways a GI could twist, turn, cock, or fashion their field caps and jungle hats. It was first a sense of individuality, and second a reminder that we are a nation of individuals and not some robotic collection of goose stepping minions. So, when I see someone out of the ordinary saluting or giving homage to our Nation, I am filled with joy! And if others wish to be conservative and adhere to some contrived convention, that is OK too. We should just remember, the first bunch at Concord Bridge and Bunker Hill, and renegades from the Cumberland’s did not follow protocol well, but from then to today we stand together. That’s All!

    Estelle R. LeClaire

  65. I will have to say, as an Air Force veteran, I will show my reverence for the flag on a situational basis.

    If I am at a military/government function that is outdoors and I am in a suit, I will render a salute. If it is indoors, I will stand at attention. The suit will act in lieu of a uniform.

    If I am in casual dress or a civilian event(ie football game), I will stand with my hand over my heart during the anthem, just as I would do at a civilian event.

    The Dept of the Navy has their own set of rules, but they do not apply to me being an Air Force vet.

  66. During Military funerals or any services(Memorial Day or Veterans Day) are veterans allowed to wear their American Legion or VFW cap inside the church? Regarding saluting the flag,I SALUTE INSIDE OR OUTSIDE – COVERED OR UNCOVERED Obama has no respect for our FLAG . Maybe if he had served he would feel different about the flag and the saluting of the Flag.

    1. Head covers are not worn inside church, regardless of the organization the head cover represents.

    2. I wrote too quickly and must amend my previous statement. I have just reviewed the funerals of both President Reagan and President Ford. All the military personnel who attended to the presidents’ coffins (pall bearers and others) were in full uniform and wearing the appropriate head coverings for the uniform—inside the National Cathedral.

      However, I do not think members of the AF, the VFW, or other veterans organizations should wear their covers inside a church. But a funeral is a unique function, and obviously veterans who are serving as pallbearers cannot stop and remove their covers.

      I do not have access to a written code of conduct for this occasion, so perhaps you need to contact the American Legion or the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

      Thank you for writing. Deborah Hendrick

  67. Deborah and Daniel,

    If in uniform and on official business (pallbearer, honor gurad, etc.), you do wear your cover in a church. If not on official business or in civilian clothes, you do not wear your cover in a church. I was taught to take my hat off when I entered a house or building. Another point, military do not remove their cover if under arms for any reason.

    I, too, salute when in civilian clothes, and I am proud to do it.
    Daniel, I must second your remarks, And I quote, “Maybe if he had served he would feel different about the flag and the saluting of the Flag.”

    Do as your conscience leads you. Like you appear to be, I am proud of my military service.

    Pappy Harmon
    USAF 1959-1963

    1. Pappy Harmon, thank you for your clarifying answer to this question.

  68. Admiral is correct, Folks the law is just a clarification addressing mainly veterans, and our comrades currently serving will follow their respective services regulations. Everyone knows about regulations and how they are added on from the top all the way down…
    If you don’t know what a Veteran is look the word up.
    If you have a hat or headgear on you don’t “FEEL” is appropriate with a salute just take it off and put your hand over your heart its not that hard folks? I would hope a veteran already knows whats appropriate.
    Admiral Bravo Alpha tack Alpha Delta Two Eight (Request permission to Splice the Main Brace) in honor of our shipmates and fellow comrades who have passed this Memorial Day, and Bravo Zulu (Well Done) to Inhofe for is efforts…

  69. I don’t know of a proper place to post my displeasure with the “business” use of the flag. I just know that an awful lot of blood and sweat and tears went into the United States Flag that we honor and love and it brings me to a halt to see it flown with a commercial flag (i.e. McDonalds) from the same staff. To reduce our flag to the dignity of a big mac and an order of fries just cannot be the intention of our those who came before us. It is no different than flying a torn, sun faded flag from your front lawn. I would rather you didn’t fly it at all. It is disrespectful.
    I wish I knew the proper channel for this but the last time I challenged McDonalds locally they claimed they had permission from some authority to fly the golden arch flag below the United States Flag.

    1. Navy Vet—you and I think alike. Reading from the U.S. Flag Code, at Section 8, Respect for the flag, [it says] (i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown (my italics).

      There are no penalties for not following the Flag Code. Those who wrote and codified the laws believed and hoped that Americans of honor and integrity would willingly follow the laws. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

      Surely there can be no other way to describe a corporate or business flag except as advertising. While I have seen many McDonald’s restaurants that fly the American flag and their Golden Arches flag properly, I have seen just as many locations displaying the flags improperly. I’m sure at the corporate level, this is a huge public relations problem for McDonald’s. And McDonald’s is hardly alone in the failure to observe this most simple and easy to understand act of flag etiquette. I see this error at apartment complexes all the time. Sometimes a letter to management works, citing the relevant portion of the Flag Code.

      I’m glad you wrote. Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  70. Navy Vet,

    Shipmate I right there with yah also. I have no problem in going up and pointing out the errors of their ways. Regarding clothing use of the flag pattern this got to be a fashion vogue by those who also disrespected our fellow veterans that came home from Vietnam. As I recall this was brought back later by Mary Lou Retton, Mark Spitz and it was used as part of endorsement contracts following the games.

    One of the reasons you get many comments from Navy types we still use flags and pennants in daily operations, we look harder at this than most, because no ship wants to look bad on the water front being a few seconds late on the hoist…

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pointed out politely to local folks from government offices to businesses for example how to properly fly a flag at half staff.

  71. I see it differently! I see it as an honor when an Olympic team, wears the colors and design, or the little league, because that liberty was paid for. I see it as a tribute when I see floats, cars, and clowns draped in the colors because of the sacrifice others had given. I see a flag flying, even though not perhaps not with proper regulation, to still be a message of pride for a Nation, of it’s people, and for it’s people. And when I see someone, or many angry and demonstrating by abusing the flag I am, yet, amazed that it is a tribute to the lives lost in defense of that flag. They died so men may remain free. It hurts to see others not appreciate the flag, but none the less that too is the cost of Freedom and Liberty. When we become as other nations where only the majority rule, party line, or social ruling class can speak openly, then we might as well, shave our heads, put on the gray uniform and pug cap with a red star or swastika on it. Because, if we forget that the flag represents the people, for all of their flaws and beliefs, we have had it …. and it is over. No less, if we value our flag, then we should even more fervently value our fellow citizens and their diversity. The fact that I served with every kind of religious believer, racial origin, social class, color, and even with Intersex, Transgender, and Gay service members should be cause to also fervently demand equality and access. However, for many the flag and a false dream is more important than the principles that it stands for. As I see it, they would have us to believe that if we all have the same hair cut and stand exactly the same way we will then be truly acceptable as Americans. “Bull Crap”, I will respect the flag “only” because of the love for what it is “supposed” to stand for and those who have “given” to preserve it. However, I will fight, and would hope all, that the flag truly means Freedom and Liberty if it in fact fully represents such for all equally. In our long, long, history that has yet to happen, and that is truly a shame. It is a shame that is far greater, and worse than anyone burning colored cloth. As I see it, nothing is sacrosanct, not the flag, or even the Constitution if it fails to deliver equal access and application of common rights and unbridled Freedom and Liberty! (Read the Constitution/Bill of Rights; are we there yet?)

    Estelle LeClaire (served)

  72. Estelle,

    I agree totally with you and your comments. I used to struggle with allowing the burning the flag because I love it so. However, the Constitution/Bill of Rights protects us all including those that chose to dissent. The protection must apply to us all equally, no matter how I may loath their position. Otherwise, as you say, there would be no freedom for any of us.

    I thank God daily for our country and our way of life.
    Thank you.

    Pappy Harmon
    U.S.A.F. 1959-1963

  73. I belong to lunch group of about 75 “old guys” meeting once a month. Almost half are veterans and half of these are Retired Military (career) individuals. During the Pledge of Allegiance several men salute. It appears to me that they are all career retired military. I served only 5 years in the Air Force during the Korean War. Because I am not career military I do not feel comfortable saluting because in the back of my mind I feel maybe saluting should be reserved for the career guys and that they would be annoyed if I joined them. So, as much as I would like to salute, I place my right hand over my heart and still feel strongly for my country.

    Bob Huettmann

    1. Bob—I really love the “old guys!” I used to work at a military museum with a lot of veteran volunteers, and it was like having a dozen fathers! They were a perfect cross-section of the American military—from the butcher to the SeaBee to the pilot. For what it’s worth, I never once considered the idea that a career military man was more worthy of respect than one who served a shorter period of time. You were there when your country needed you (and would no doubt, do it all again if necessary).

      Permit me to encourage you: on the next occasion when it would be proper for you to salute, do it (there’s bound to be a Fourth of July parade in your immediate future.) See how you feel in your heart. You earned it, Bob. Thank you for writing, and Best Wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  74. When did the Flag Code, or other flag related law change to allow veterns to salute the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance?


    1. George, the legislation that permits veterans (and active duty personnel not in uniform) to salute the flag was introduced by Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma). It was included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, that Congress passed in 2008. It is also called Public Law No. 110-181 of the United States Code.

  75. Thanks for you reply Deborah. I have researched this PL and can find no reference to The Pledge of Allegiance. The US FLag Fourm has posted this……………..

    “The short answer is that, as a Veteran not in uniform, you have two choices: 1) leave your cover on (if you’re wearing one) and render the military salute, or 2) remove your cover and place it over your heart. The type of cover is irrelevant in both cases. I’ll quote the actual language from the US Code in just a minute.

    There’s more to the story, however. There are three different sections of the US code that deal with conduct during salutes:

    – Title 4, Section 1 Para 4: saluting during the pledge of allegience
    – Title 4, Section 1 Para 9: saluting when the flag is raised, lowered, or passes in a parade
    – Title 36, Subtitle 1 Part A Para 301: saluting during the playing of the national anthem

    Originally, all three had similar wording. Essentially they said that persons in uniform give the military salute, other male citizens wearing headgear remove their covers and hold them over their hearts, and other citizens place hands over hearts. There were minor differences: for example, the pledge of allegience version made an exception for men wearing religious headgear, and the raising/lowering version specified that non-citizens should stand at attention without saluting.

    Earlier this year, the code was amended by PL 110-181. Congress’s intent was to allow military personel and veterans to give the military salute even if they were not in uniform. So far so good. However, what they did was to amend Title 4, Section 1, Para 9 while leaving the other two sections unchanged. As amended, Para 9 reads as follows:

    “. . . 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.”

    However, because Congress did not change the other two sections, this new language only applies when the flag raised, lowered, or passing in review. During the playing of the national anthem and the reciting of the pledge of allegience, the old rules still technically apply. It’s not clear what rules apply when the national anthem is played as the flag is raised — the revised code actually contradicts itself. This is an absurd situation, of course. Congress obviously meant to change the rules in all three cases, but they were sloppy and didn’t do it right. Until they fix it, my take would be that we should follow the new version of Section 9 in all three cases.

    Notice that the new version of Section 9 also eliminates the distinction between men and women. Formerly, women civilians were supposed to leave their hats on; as revised, they’re apparently supposed to remove them (unless they are military or veterans, of course). At least, that’s what it seems to say — the phrase “if applicable” is not very specific.”

    Please let me know what you think.



    1. George, I do not believe that Congress intended for civilian women to remove their hats while “heart” saluting the flag. I believe that regardless of what the the law originally intended, or what the subsequent amendments say or should have included, the de facto result is that veterans and active duty personnel have the liberty to salute the flag on any and all “flag” occasions, inside or out, covered or uncovered.

      While it would be nice if Congress could get it right, I have no hope that the proper correction will occur. Of course all veterans and milpers are free to choose the circumstances in which they render a military salute or a heart salute.

      Best Wishes, Deborah

  76. As a former Marine, I read the changes in the law and was excited. I was questioned when I saluted the Flag recently at a ceremony as to how I qualify to be considered a veteran under this ruling. My response was that, because I served in the Armed Forces although only for three years, I was honorably discharged now considered a Military Veteran. This question came from an Air National Guard Retiree who is in the “gray area” veterans status as it pertains to Retirement Benefits. My comment was that these are two separate issues and from what I understand as a former Marine, I am permitted to stand at attention and salute the Flag of the United States of America and with the corrections to be made, also during the National Anthem and the raising and lowering of the Flag.

  77. Regarding who is qualified to state they have served? I would take the narrowest of views: Anyone who has worn the uniform, sworn to defend the Constitution Of the United States, and so honorably held to that oath, regardless of the length of service, or the degree to cost of that oath is one who has earned the right. Not all may agree! (Perhaps the DOD does not?) However, there are many who in training suffered disability and injury who were sent home on a medical, there are those who had served but a single draft and sent home early. My view is that anyone who has worn the uniform and swore to defend with their lives the Flag and Constitutionality of this people, has earned their place. Estelle R LeClaire

  78. Ms. Casteel,

    I agree with your statements; and, like you, I am excited about being able to salute while in civilian clothes — to be able to show my respect in that manner. I do it every chance I get.

    Pappy Harmon
    USAF 1959-1963

  79. Ms. LeClaire,

    “My view is that anyone who has worn the uniform and swore to defend with their lives the Flag and Constitutionality of this people, has earned their place. ”

    You are absolutely correct, and I say AMEN! to that.
    I’d like to point out also that we took that oath willingly and without an expiration date. Even though I swore that oath long ago (1959), I am still bound by it today.

    I am proud of my service and proud to be an American.

    Pappy Harmon
    USAF 1959-1963

  80. I am a United States Navy Veteran and I just learned about the law allowing veterans to salute in civilian clothing.I was thrilled.But the CNO statement above denies Navy Vets that right as I read it.Is that the case and if so that is extremely offinsive to NavVets.

    1. Dear Mr. Crowley—The United States Congress changed the law, and now you have permission to salute the flag wearing civilian clothing, covered or uncovered, anytime you want to. The military answers to Congress, not the other way around.

      I think the leaders of the Navy and the Marine Corp were offended that Congress would nullify more than two centuries of Navy and Marine tradition without fully considering the end result. My son is a Navy veteran, and he has repeated stated that he could never salute the flag if not in uniform and covered—his affection for the Navy is far greater than his affection for Congress.

      Each veteran makes a choice. Please read all the comments here; I think you will be encouraged.

      Thank you for writing, and Best Wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

  81. When I joined the Army in 1964-1967, I was asked if I was ready to defend our Nation and I said I was. I did not asked what might happen if I did but only said that I would. In turn, how I choose to respect Her by the way of a salute to Her Flag should be of my choice also as long as it is honorable. They did not tell me I might have to fight or die for my Country but I knew this was possible for it was during Nam. This is why I do not think that anyone should question how I wish to honor Her. May God Bless the USA again as He did before we left Him out of America. I am honored and proud to have served and no one branch of service is any different than the other when we are ready to lay down our lives for The USA and our loved ones. Specialist E5 Army Johnnie Keith McGraw

  82. Gray Area Guard and Reserves may be pleased to know of legislation that is now making its way through Congress that allows Guard and Reserve retirees to considered Veterans. (Those that have not completed the required active duty time.) As far as the Flag Code, it is still a bit confusing and I agree that a Veteran should be able to render an appropriate in all situations. Until the code changed, we are stuck with what the law says, but what common citizen would be knowlegeble enough to challenge it? My brother and I proudly salute when the national athem is played; he being a 6 year U.S. Navy Veteran and I a 21 year longivity U.S. Navy retiree.

  83. My question as a Retired Military (20 years) person is as follows: Am I allowed to salute the flag when I am wearing a BALL CAP style hat with U.S. Navy Retired, U.S. Navy, VietNam Veteran on the cap. In other words am I authorized to salute the flag with a regular type BALL CAP?
    Thomas R. Campbell Jr., U.S. Navy Retired

    1. Yes. You are now permitted to salute the flag in civilian clothing, wearing any kind of head covering, or uncovered. Thank you for writing, and best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  84. All my beloved Army Reserve buddies were killed in the Korean War; that is, all 3,500. And there I was sitting at little desk in the Administrative Tent, Message Center. Eighth Army Headquarters, Teague, Korea. I always salute the flag in their memory. That I will continue to do, regardless of the law.

  85. I would like to know how the ruling affects vets of state military reserves and state guards. While we don’t go overseas, we’ve been in Katrina and at the southern border, along with our National Guard brothers and sisters.


    1. James—The ruling addresses members of the “Armed Forces and veterans.” State military reserves and guards are a recognized force within the “Armed Forces.” I can’t imagine that anyone would say you do not have the right to salute under this ruling.
      Thank you for writing and Best Wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  86. Thanks for the clarification. I’m a “vet” drafted in ’71. I’m not sure how comfortable I’ll be saluting with a civilian cap, but, I do prefer a salute to my hand over my heart; it will let those around me know that I served the country.

  87. As a 6 year CO. Army National Guard vet. I wanted to wish all of our men and women who now wear or who once wore the uniform a very happy Veteran’s Day. Since the first time I heard that I could once again salute my flag at an Air Force/BYU football game 2 years ago, I have and will continue to salute my flag. I personally can’t leave a regular ball cap on in a salute even though we can. I’m a Boy Scout leader and all my boys know exactly what I expect during flag ceremonies and salutes. May God continue to protect our military and God bless you all.
    Arron Wallace 82C

    1. Thank you for your service, and thank you for being a Boy Scout leader. Best Wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  88. I for one am very proud to salute our great flag and honor the USA. My concern is why do we not announce to the general public (Football, Baseball, Basketball and other games – Parades, or any place the National Anthem is played) that it is proper for Veterans to HAND SALUTE (covered or uncovered) the flag of the USA. I have been ask many times why I salute during the National Anthem. When I reply that the HAND SALUTE is proper they ask or you sure.
    Can we make a national issue of saluting and get all of the veterans on the same page?
    Thanks for your time

    1. George, I wish I knew how to get the information out better. Part of the problem is that the portion of the U.S. Code that addresses the National Anthem and saluting the flag is found in a different part of the code from where the “Flag Code” is found. A lot of people—civilians—simply were never taught that they are supposed to salute the flag during the National Anthem, by holding a hand over the heart. They think standing at attention is all they are supposed to do.

      I know most VSOs (Veterans Service Organizations) have done a good job of telling veterans that they can now salute without being in uniform. Writing a letter to your local newspaper would help, if you are so inclined. Perhaps your local newspaper would write an article about veterans and saluting, if you talked to a reporter or the editor. And don’t overlook the radio stations. In so many towns, the people from the radio station “call” the games, so they are a logical resource to approach.

      Thank you for writing. Good luck and best wishes. Getting the word out is a good thing to do. Deborah Hendrick

  89. What do you think about a group of cheerleaders saluting the flag during the National Anthem? I find it insulting! THEY SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO DO THIS!!!

    1. Margaret, if the cheerleaders were saluting the flag with a “heart salute”—that is, by putting their right hands over their hearts—then it’s ok. If they used a military salute—right hand to the forehead—then they have been very badly misinformed. They probably did this out of total ignorance, but they do need to be educated. My guess is that you were not the only one who was upset by this, but you can always find out who the cheerleaders answer to (a cheerleading coordinator or the principal perhaps) and have a candid conversation with that person.

      Thank you for writing. Best Wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  90. What about non-military civil servants in uniform (ie:police- fire fighters)?
    Are they allowed to use the military salute?

    1. Jake—that is a question that I can’t answer. I think most fire and police departments, and other law enforcement agencies set those policies individually. I know that uniformed troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety do use a military style salute, as appropriate to the occasion.

      Thank you for writing, and Best Wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  91. When a vet salutes the flag should he take his hat off. I’m talking a baseball cap or a hat that says something else on it. Should this be done outdoors or indoors when they salute. If this is done in a gym at a basketball game should the person have his hat off anyways because he is in a building. I know someone and I tell him his hat should be off inside a building. Thank you for clarifying all of this.

    1. Dear Mr. Scott—I thought I was the last person left who thinks that men should remove their hats indoors. Your veteran friend is permitted by law to salute the flag any time, covered or uncovered, indoors or outdoors, regardless of what kind of hat he is wearing. Thank you for writing, and best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  92. For clarification; do the same rules apply for saluting indoors as outdoors? I can’t seem to find anything in writing that clearly makes a distinction. At a recent formal event indoors the color guard marched to the stage and stopped. The National Anthem was played and the colors were posted. Should/could I have saluted during the Anthem? Also, prior to some organizational meetings the Pledge is recited, should/could I salute then? Is there anything in writing that clearly states the rules or is it left to interpretation?

    1. Hi Will. Thank you for writing. Yes, the same rules apply. As a veteran, you are permitted to salute the Flag anytime, anywhere, in uniform or civilian clothing, covered or uncovered, indoors or outside.

      Certainly there are some things that are open to interpretation. While the law that provides for this does not say, I believe—and I think most vets would agree with me—that if you choose to salute the flag during the National Anthem or the Pledge of Allegiance, you should not sing the Anthem or recite the Pledge, which is how you would have responded while in uniform.

  93. I recently attended the funeral of a fellow veteran, and I saluted when “taps” was played.

  94. I’m currently writing “Letters to the Editor” of several newspapers around the USA. In this letter, I will spell out the new rules for saluting the American Flag. Most vets do not know this and I fault the media for not letting them know. It’s with great pride when I salute our American Flag and remember my fellow vets who gave their lives for our freedom. God Bless Our Vets and Current Military Members and God Bless America. Sincerely, James Parsons, USAF vet.

  95. I am wondering if Active or Reservists have to salute a state guard officer and vise versus if a state guardsman salutes a active or reservist officer of all branches.

    1. Dave, thank you for writing. But this is a question I cannot answer. Perhaps some of the veterans who read here can help you out.
      Best Wishes, Deborah

  96. I love the idea of being able to salute the flag. I think public address announcers at sporting events should inform those attending of this. Looking around a stadium to see how many have served in the military is important.

    However, I’ve felt uncomfortable wearing a ball cap while saluting. If wearing a military related cap I do, but I can imagine a camera focused on someone saluting while wearing a “Who farted?” ball cap.

  97. I noticed one person commenting on this issue stated that veterans and members of the military not in uniform have the choice to remove their covers (if covered) and place the cover over their heart. Maybe you or someone caught this and pointed out that one’s hat or cap is not properly placed over the heart. I see that nearly everyone giving the salute with the hand and holding a cover will place the hand over their gut and the cover over their heart. Of course the hand goes over the heart and the cover goes over the shoulder. I hope most veterans know this even if people of the general public don’t.


  98. Dave, I believe you do need to salute a CO regardless of them being a Guard and you Reserve or viseversa and other combinations. I remember when I was in the Regular Army I was required to salute a National Guard CO. I hope that’s what you meant by your question.

  99. RE: Dave’s question and Aaron Hurt’s reply…

    I serve in the Georgia State Defense Force – – (known in some states as “State Guard”). We have been taught that we are to salute all officers, per Army regs, irrespective of their branch of the military, whether state or federal military. Likewise, the US Army/National Guardsmen I have seen salute our officers. Our uniforms are very similar (ACU’s and Class A greens until 2014, or Class A blues), and the rank structure follows the US Army’s.

    In our state, about 1/2 of the state guard are prior military. I don’t know how other states work, but here, we are an all volunteer force, and all of our gear, uniforms, travel expenses, and training is at our personal expense. We serve the National Guard, as well as local law enforcement in a variety of missions.

  100. As a Army Veteran (Vietnam Era), as a veteran who is proud to have served my country, during a rough time, I salute the flag. I am a woman. In this terrible heat, I often wear a cap, and I remove my cap, hold it in my left hand, and salute the flag. I was taught to salute the flag during the pledge, and when the Nat’l Anthem is played. I have been doing this always and did not know that this has just come to law the last few years. My Uncle was a WWII Vet and he always saluted. He told me that it shows honor and love for our country that is not to fade. He said you can take off your uniform, but the love of the country you served, should always be worn. God Bless America and all those who have served!

  101. My husband is a Vietnam veteran. We attended the flag ceremony at Sunset Beach, Cape May, NJ. The gentleman who leads the ceremony read the Congressional act. We were confused, but I told my husband, “I think you can salute the flag! I hope you do.” He did. We both shed tears as is this was the first time he and others who served our country were truly recognized as veterans although not in uniform. Ordinarily, they look like the rest of us. I, for one, am honored that people in crowds (such as athletic events) now know who has served this country. In our 30 yrs of marriage, I’ve known only one time veterans were recognized when Mark Cuban (owner of Mavericks Basketball team) asked that anyone who has served our country stand so the rest could applaud their service. I hope that it’s okay for him to continue to salute during the raising of the flag (which usually coincides with the playing of the national anthem) and the lowering. For once, they are recognized as having given a bit more than the normal, everyday citizen.

  102. We need to all get together and push our local professional sports teams to start announcing that veterans may salute the flag during the annual anthem. I have been present twice when it has happened at minor league and pre-season baseball games. I have written everyone I can, but no one seems to listen. We need a letter writing and email campaign. We know it is proper. We know they can easily make the announcement. We all need to take the time to make it happen. Millions of people go to sporting events. If word gets out there it will get out everywhere.

    1. Joel, I understand your frustration. Maybe a phone call to the public relations department of the sports franchise would help. If you have trouble getting though, as a local sports reporter for an insider’s name. And maybe the sports reporter will even do a story. Best Wishes, Deborah

  103. I can’t find any information about saluting by a veteran or retiree during a burial service with full honors. Does anyone know of any source information.
    It may be a little late in asking since I am attending a burial service at Ft Rosecrans National Cemetery tomorrow (Saturday, October 8 for my Grandnephew, Sgt Tyler Holtz, who was killed in Afghanistan on Friday, September 24. It was his fourth tour.

    Thank you

    1. Mr. Heinz,

      You are now permitted to salute the flag on all the occasions where you would have saluted while in uniform. It doesn’t matter if your head is covered or uncovered, or if you are wearing any kind of uniform or civilian clothing.

      We are very sorry for the loss of Sgt. Tyler Holtz, Mr. Heinz.

      Sincerely, Deborah Hendrick

  104. I am an Air Force Veteran of the Korean war era. Since that makes me a person with much arthritis and not much sanding. If someone may have mentioned it before I am sorry not to have seen it. What would be the ruling for some one in a wheelchair?

    1. I’m sorry, Mr. Moore—my website is slow and old-fashioned (a bit like me). Comments don’t show up until they default to my email inbox, and until I approve them.

      While veterans in wheelchairs are not specifically mentioned in the the right-to-salute law, your status and freedom to salute is not changed because you are in a wheelchair. You are permitted to salute on all occasions just as you would have while still in uniform. It doesn’t matter if you are indoors or outside, covered or uncovered. Best Wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  105. While watching the World Series games, I noticed that the two times (two different games) that National Guard members sang the National Anthem, they were not wearing their hat. The other two games were other branches of service and they both wore their hats. Is there some special rule that says while singing the National Anthem you do not need to wear a hat? I thought anytime you were in uniform and outside and the NA is played, you must have on your hat. Or is this a “Go Guard” rule?

    1. Irene, while I have watched the games, I’ve missed the National Anthem every time. Actually, the “rule” for the National Anthem does not say anything about the performer(s). Because military personnel in uniform rarely do anything without orders, one would think there would be specific instructions to cover an event like this, but I have not found anything so far.

      For a member of the military in full uniform, I can’t imagine how awkward it would be to sing the National Anthem—which they never do—and NOT salute, which they always do. But on most “military” occasions, the National Anthem is played by a band, and there are no vocalists. I suspect that in each of these instances, the men who sang the National Anthem had specific orders on how what to do, even if it is not formally written down somewhere. And there are some distinctions between the branches of the military regarding saluting, so those may extend to the National Anthem, too.

      Which brings me to my favorite rant: If the National Anthem is going to be sung, then we should all stand and sing it together. Those who can hit the high notes will, and be held aloft by those who can hit the low notes. Imagine how it would sound if everyone in the stadium were singing together.

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

  106. Deb,

    I could not agree with you more. Not only should the National Anthem be sung by the entire stadium it should be performed the way it was written. Professional performers should not be allowed to put thier own personal “spin” on the notes.

    USA Veteran, USAF Civilian,


    1. Gary, it is my greatest wish, that someday at the Super Bowl, an American performer of national renown, will invite the people in the stadium to stand and then “conduct” us all in singing the National Anthem. I don’t know who that star is, and I don’t think the Super Bowl committee reads The Daily Flag, but I continue to hope. I did once sent a message to Roger Goodall, but I never received a reply so I don’t know if he got it. Perhaps I need to start a writing campaign, to let our opinion be known.

      But it’s our song, and we should sing it together—-and if we DO sing it together, then we’ll pretty much have to sing it the way it was written, too 🙂

      Thank you for commenting, Gary, and best wishes. Deborah

  107. At a recent legion meeting a heavy conversation occured about saying the Pledge of Allegience to the Flag while covered. Some members complained you were to remove your cover and place it over your heart, others advised it was proper to leave your cover on. .Which is the proper method.

    1. Dear Mr. Joyce—The change in the law that now permits veterans to salute the flag is open to interpretation in some instances, and this is one of them. It is my opinion that if a veteran wants to salute the flag, he or she should comport himself precisely the same way that he would have done while in uniform. Therefor, because uniformed military personnel DO NOT recite the Pledge of Allegiance, then I believe veterans who want to render a military salute while covered should remain silent. But if a veteran wants to recite the pledge, then I believe he should remove his cover, and instead render a “heart” salute.

      This opinion (of mine) extends to the National Anthem also. Because military personnel do not sing the National Anthem while in uniform, it is my opinion that if a veteran wants to salute the flag with a military salute during the National Anthem, he should remain silent.

      I think a veteran thus needs to decide which act of patriotism is more important to him—which one feels best in the heart. They are both equally valid, but it is simply not appropriate to do both at the same time—it is a matter of protocol and etiquette. But now, with the change in the law, this is clearly an emotional decision and a deeply personal decision.

      For example, my son is a Navy veteran. He has repeatedly told me that he will never render a military salute if not in uniform—period. End of discussion. I have heard from others who feel the same way. I have also heard from some who call my “opinion” pure B.S., which is their opinion.

      In an American Legion post, or a VFW post, I can appreciate that the post leadership from the local level all the way to national would want all the members to render honors in the same way—provided you all can agree on what the same way is.

      The unanswered question is why military personnel are/were to remain silent during the Pledge of Allegiance anyway. I’m sure the answer is buried deep in some archive, and a military historian would be needed to dig it out. I can only speculate, and think that it is because a military oath is a higher, more comprehensive oath—one that implies giving your life if necessary—which sets you apart from civilians. And the military oaths of allegiance considerably predate the “civilian” Pledge of Allegiance.

      I don’t know if this helps you Mr. Joyce, but thank you for writing. Please write again if you want.

      Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  108. ALCON,

    I have a question. I am in the military and I have a flag pole in front of my building on my base that in order to enter the command you have to walk underneath of the National Ensign. I have looked everywhere where it would say to salute or not to salute while in uniform. I couldn’t find anything listed. So I referred to the Navy’s 11 general orders that say “To salute all officers and all colors and standards not cased”. I consider myself a Sentry at all times in the military. Do you have a better reference? I have some questioning whether or not they should be required to salute the Ensign.

    1. Hi Ken. What an interesting question—one that I don’t have an answer for. But let me hunt around in my reference materials, and see if I can find anything that will help clarify, and I will write again. It will take me a day or two.

      Let me say that I am surprised that your building has its “own” flagpole. I was under the impression that military bases generally displayed one large outdoor flag only, to which all honors would be directed, and other flags would be displayed indoors. But, if you salute the flag when you go on-board a ship, and salute the flag again when you leave (a ship being a “command” on its own), then it does not seem superfluous to salute the flag outside of the command building, as you come and go.

      I’ll get back to you. Thanks for writing. Deborah Hendrick

    2. I found this in a Marine training document, which includes instruction for both Navy and Marine Corp personnel. As I see it, the orders to salute “uncased” colors means to salute the flag when it is in motion—when it is being carried by a Color Guard. For flags on stationary poles, the flag is saluted when it is raised in the morning, and saluted again when it lowered at night. Therefor, it would seem that it is not necessary to salute the flag in front of the command building each time you pass it.


      .9 Discuss the procedures for rendering honors and circumstances during which honors are rendered during colors and the National Anthem.
      a. Render honors during “Colors” and to the National Anthem, IF you are neither
      in formation nor in a vehicle, THEN render the prescribed salute. Hold the salute
      until the last note of music is sounded. IF no flag is near, THEN face the music
      and salute. IF you are in formation, THEN salute only on the command, “present
      arms.” IF you are outdoors and uncovered, THEN stand at attention face the
      direction of the flag or music. IF you are indoors, THEN stand at attention face
      the music and/or flag, IF you are in a vehicle, THEN (driver) halt vehicle,
      (passengers and driver) remain seated, at attention do not salute. IF your are
      passing or being passed by an uncased color, which is being paraded, presented,
      or is on formal display, THEN salute at six paces distance and hold the salute for
      six paces beyond or until it has passed your position by six paces. IF you are
      covered, THEN stand or march at attention when passing or being passed by an
      uncased color.

      b. When the flag is raised at morning colors or is lowered at evening colors,
      stand at attention at the first note of the National Anthem or “To the Colors”
      (standard), and render the prescribed salute. If you are engaged in some duty
      which would become a safety hazard or risk to property, do not salute. Usually
      face the flag while saluting, but if your duty requires it, face in another direction.
      When the music sounds “Carry On,” resume regular duties.

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

  109. There is so many response and answer to go through to see if most questions were answered. As a veteran and from I read of the code, believe me I read the codes. I spend a few months at Arlington National, as a relief for the Old Guard (Army detachment) during 72 -73 at a time when our fallen were coming home. We did not question, any one who gave salute to a fallen soldier, you are honoring him in doing so. As far as saluting an Office, no matter what branch of service or catagory of service (Guard, Reserve) you are saluting the rank of a commissioned office, and that officer is do the respect. The question about saluting a flag out side a building even thought most Post, Base, or Ports have a main flag, if you board a ship while in port you still must salute the flag on the ship as you board, I see no difference if you salute an uncased Raise flag out side a building in which you are going to enter while in uniform. There are so many changes to the Codes, that we are slammed if we do or if we don’t. Who inforces these Code?? NO ONE!!! Veterans as it has been put it is us to how you feel and how you read the Code. I have done a lot of flag retirement service in my past, but recently I have been confronted by Veteran Groups that think they know better. From my time in the service as a veteran and my time with Boy Scouts who do such honors I have done over 75 such retirement service, my questions to them is where is it written or where is the written law or code on the proper way to retire a flag. There are currently 50+ Ceremonies on line, that Boy Scouts, Veteran Groups and such use. The Code does not out line how it should be done other than to be burned and then buried in a dignified manner. Veterans Groups who say it should be done this way or that way need to really read up some of the Code themselves. For this kind of reason I do not join Veterans groups, because not one groups has a set way on doing things. I have read numbers of ways the VFW Halls do things and find that not even the VFW Hall has a set way of retiring Flags. Again I retired Flags while at Arlington, and will continue to instruct the way I was taught until the folks who write the codes can clarify a proper write code that covers such.

    Deborah, THANK YOU for all your hard work, you are doing a great job

    CW-2, D Troop 1st Air Cav

    1. Thank you Ed, for writing. This particular article is one that continue to get comments.

      It is interesting to me, that (what we commonly call) The Flag Code leaves a lot of questions unanswered. The retirement of flags is a big one. Obviously, the flag retirement ceremony can be as simple or elaborate as one wants it to be. And a lot of people think that only an organization such as the Boy Scouts, VFW, or the American Legion can conduct a flag retirement ceremony. The fact is, anyone can retire a flag, as long as they do with with honor and respect.( I would like to build a fire pit at my house so I can retire my own flags.)

      I personally dislike retirement ceremonies where the flag is taken apart before it is burned, but lacking specific instructions,I can’t say that it’s the wrong thing to do. And there is a service organization in the northeast, that greets flights of returning military personnel, coming back from overseas. This group gives each milper a embroidered star, cut out of flags that are to be retired. I appreciate the sentiment in doing this, but I think it is very wrong. If a flag is to be retired, then all of the flag needs to be retired. But they didn’t ask for my opinion, either.

      But by far, my biggest complaint that is a violation of the Flag Code is the practice of toting out a huge flag—flat and horizontal as a patriotic ceremony. This is an outright violation of the Flag Code, and it really gets to me. My flag is not a pre-game show, or a half-time show. Then they use a hundred people to hold the flag and make it ripple. Oh, this is so wrong.

      According to the Flag Code, there is only one occasion when the flag is permitted to be displayed flag, or horizontal, or draped—and that is when it is placed on a casket. It is our nation’s greatest sorrow and our greatest honor for those who have served this country—to drape the American flag over their casket. (And to have that singular honor co-opted for “entertainment” is just too much.)

      Ed, I would like to know how the Army retires its flags, if you would like to share that information. Please write to me at

      Thank you again for writing, and best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

  110. Deborah. You seem to have a good grasp on the flag code and I agree with all you say. My pet peeve is the display of the flag by the President of the US. In almost every case, the American Flag is not posted “on it’s own right” but they seem to think more is better and have several American Flags mixed with other flags (State, Prez flag, etc, etc). In addition, when flown with other countries flags it still should be “on it’s own right” which they seldom seem to do. I guess they’re afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. As far as retiring the flags, each organization seems to have their own style which is not wrong as long as it shows a respectful way of destruction by burning. However, placing a truck load of folded flags in a burn pit is impractical as they will burn for a week. A small ceremony with a group of friends is a good way to honor and destroy a lot of flags. (You can unfold them and they don’t burn as long) It’s still respectful and get’s the job done.
    Ashes should be buried also in a dignified manner.

    1. Thank you for your comments, Mr. Hufford. I do think that it’s important to let people know that they can retire their own flags.

  111. Deborah,

    I’m a veteran — Navy ’64-68 — an am pleased to be able to salute the flag while not in uniform. However, I recall the rule that the head had to be covered when saluting. As a veteran under the new rules do I have to be covered to salute the flag or have the rules changed allowing me to salute without a hat on?

    1. Hi Karl,
      You do not have to be wearing a head cover now, when saluting the flag. On all the occasions where you previously would have saluted in uniform, you may now salute as a civilian—covered or uncovered, indoors or outside, and in civilian clothing. Thank you for writing.
      Best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

  112. The Flag Manual use to say that you did not salute flags on stationary poles other then when the flag is being raised or lowered. There was a change in the last 10 years or so because I can’t find it mentioned in the current Flag Manual nor can I find this specifically discussed in any other current official document so I go with what I used to know as fact.

  113. I would like to know if I have on a non-military related hat, do I remove that hat and am I still then permitted to salute the flag during the National Anthem?

    1. Carl, it doesn’t matter if you keep your hat on, or take it off. You are permitted to salute covered, or uncovered, indoors or outdoors, and wearing civilian clothing—on all the same occasions where you would have saluted while in uniform. Thank you for writing, Carl.
      Best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

      1. Thank you for your quick reply.

  114. Deborah Hendrick Does the same apply to Military Reservist not in uniform, can they still salute the flag indoor or outdoors, covered or not covered?

    1. Eddie, I have never read anything to indicate otherwise. The rules of conduct, personal comportment et cetera are not different for reservists. Unless you are specifically ordered NOT to salute if not in uniform, I would assume that it was ok. Thank you for writing and best wishes. Deborah

  115. Eddie/Deborah,
    May I suggest that since the rule is for “veterans”, a reservist has taken basic training and has at least had one day of active duty, that makes him/her a veteran. Under that logic, your response would be correct.

  116. I find this all so very interesting. I served from ’69 through ’71 in the Army. I would be proud to salute the flag rather than covering my heart (as I do now). My grandchildren look up to me in awe when we are at parades and the flag passes and I cover my heart, they know, even at their young age, to do likewise. In the future I will salute, with pride, our flag and tell my grandkids why I am doing this.

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  118. All,
    What is your interpretation of the NAVADMIN and ALMAR messages released in 2009 and 2008, respectively? Both of those messages direct members of the Navy and Marine Corps to only salute when in uniform and covered. As a Navy veteran, am I to follow my Service direction even after retirement, or can I follow the US Code? Thanks in advance.
    Cheers, Dave

    1. Hi Dave. Thank you for writing.
      Readers? What is your answer to Dave’s question?

      1. My thoughts are that they are several years old in their interpretation of the regulations. We (Veterans) are allowed to salute the flag. Period. Follow the US code. I have run across several occasions where the USAF doesn’t salute the National Anthem indoors (on active duty). I totally disagree with this but how do you tell the General to salute when he thinks he’s right?
        I seriously doubt that any of them are going to come and chastise you for saluting. I certainly won’t. Set the example, do it!

  119. If at a ball game, covered with my team cap, do I salute with my cap on when the National Anthem is played? Or do I remove it to salute?

    1. Rich, if you are a veteran, then you can salute with your cover on—even a ball cap. If you a not a veteran, then you need to remove your cap. Thank you for writing, and best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  120. I was at an event when an anouncer asked for everyone to stand, remove hats, and honor the flag. They then proceeded to play the country song “Proud to be an American”. I was upset. Is it OK to honor the American Flag with a song other than the Natioanl Anthem?

    1. Rock—I would have been unhappy, too. As Americans, we are sparing with our honors: we honor the National Anthem—by standing and saluting with either a military salute or a heart salute. It doesn’t matter if the flag is there or not (you could be listening to the Anthem over a speaker, and not be where there is a flag in sight), but the honor is to the Anthem. We honor the flag by saluting when it passes by us in a parade (for example), or maybe by standing in a class room—saluting the flag and saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Unlike the National Anthem, the Pledge is always recited with a flag present.

      Those who wrote and codified the Flag Code and the National Anthem Code believed that we as Americans would choose to follow the Code(s) in good faith, without threat or penalty. I believe it was highly improper to be asked to render honors (did people salute?) to the flag without playing the National Anthem or reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I see this happening at baseball games too, where God Bless America is played for the seventh-inning stretch, and people stand and salute. I am very fond of God Bless America and Proud to be An American, and they are splendid patriotic songs, but they are not the National Anthem. As civilians, we render honors to the National Anthem and the flag, and nothing else.

      Thank you for writing. And best wishes, Deborah Hendrick
      P.S. Honoring our war dead, and those who have served us in other ways, it a topic for another discussion. But our saddest and highest honor is to place the flag on the caskets of those who have died. This alone makes me very careful when it comes to respecting the flag and the National Anthem.

  121. I had heard and it may be folk lore (still a good story line) that scouts were allowed to salute the flag while in uniform. But that it took an act of congress to allow this to happen.

    they are allowed to salute like the military and official groups like EMS, Law enforcement, and other official uniform wearing groups.

    I am teaching scouts soon and would like the citation of that if it can be found. I am trying to impress upon the young scouts that it is a very special privilige and they need to be respectful by wearing a buttoned-up uniform, with neckerchief and shirt tucked in and not hanging out.

    I would really appreciate if you can find anything regarding this. I have done some searching but not finding any reference to it.

    thanks much,
    Mike Nielson

    1. Hi Mike, thank you for writing. And thanks also to Sarge, for his good answer, which I endorse.
      Regarding an official act of Congress that would permit Boy Scouts to salute the flag—I believe this is indeed folklore. For two reasons: 1. As an Act of Congress, it would be well-documented and probably printed in the front of the scout’s handbook.
      2. Patriotic and service organizations have always always saluted the flag while in uniform, and they didn’t need permission from Congress.

      No doubt there have been various proclamations through the 100+ years of Scouting, and perhaps one of those proclamations had something to do with saluting, but I don’t know how you’d find out. You might contact a historian a the National office in Irving, Texas.

      I suspect that it has never been harder, trying to convince young boys the value in wearing their uniforms. But wearing the uniform helps remind them of who and what they are. Helping each other, advancing in rank—these are things that help them grow. You might share the story below with the boys. Maybe it will encourage them. It’s true; I knew the young man because he was my son’s first Scoutmaster. By the way, my son is 43 and still carries his Eagle Scout card in his wallet.

      Best wishes, Mike to you and the Scouts.
      Deborah Hendrick

      1. Excellent, thanks for the guidance. and also thanks for a great story about your son. I have an Eagle son also and very proud of him. His project took just under 1000 man hours.

        I am a silver beaver and woodbadge and other awards recipient and still involved with teaching adults in scouting. Outdoor skills, wilderness first aid, CPR/AED. I surely do enjoy scouting.

  122. If I may, the flag code does not specify other than veterans. I suggest that if any group that has adopted a hand salute may salute the flag when in uniform. Respect for the flag is the key words. If you intend your salutes to respect the flag, do it. Like Deborah has said many times, there is no penalty for not following the flag code. Out of uniform nobody would know they are Boy Scouts and wouldn’t know why they are saluting so I would discourage that and have them place their right hand over their heart. When they are in uniform people will know that they have been taught the proper respect for the flag. Also, I would teach to have the uniform as complete and buttoned up as possible.
    Just my thoughts as an old retired vet.

    1. Right on the money, great comments and thoughts. Thanks very much

  123. I noted an article in today’s Omaha World Herald that our local representative is proposing legislation to pass a law with regard to Veterans and the hand salute for the flag. I recall an executive order during Pres. George W Bush’s administration that authorized the hand salute. Are these executive orders rescinded hence needing a law to authorize the Veterans to render the hand salute at events?

    1. Steve, thank you for writing. I found the article you referenced, and the bill corrects an over-sight in previous legislation.

      The previously passed Section 594 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, (Public Law No. 110-181 of the United States Codee) and its subsequent amendments should have taken care of the saluting question. But alas, Congress still missed changing the portion within the Pledge of Allegiance. Presumably, this new bit of legislation takes care of the overlooked section.

      I have long considered this defacto law, and have advised veterans and active duty military personnel not in uniform that they are free to salute the flag under all the same circumstances that they would have saluted while in uniform. Indoors or outside, covered or uncovered. In uniform or not. Bearing in mind of course, Navy and Marine Corp regulations, which continue to hold to their historic tradition against saluting out of uniform regardless of Congress’s actions.

      Thank you Steve, for bringing this to my attention.
      Best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

      Flag Code

  124. Steve, I doubt that he’ll be able to make it a law since the hand salute should be part of the Flag Code, which is law but without punishment. It would be interesting to see where he’s going with that. I don’t know about rescinding executive orders but I would think they would have to be intentionally rescinded by the President. Maybe someone out here knows about that better than I do. Not a very good answer but I tried.

  125. In response to David’s question. When I was in the Army Reserve before joining the Guard I attended a deployment ceremony for a local Army National Guard unit. I was saluted by Guard soldiers while attending(I was a comissioned officer). When I became a Guard officer I was assigned to the state headquarters and worked beside many State Guard officers and soldiers. While I was saluted by many of their enlisted I never received specific instruction about saluting their officers. The short answer is yes, if they are an Army or Air National Guard officer you should salute them regardless of branch or component, because they hold both a state militia and US Army/Air Force reserve commission. Their branch tapes say U.S. Army or U.S. Air Force for a reason. State Guard(those who’s branch tape is the State name or says State Guard) I would say when it doubt salute anyway.

  126. I also am happy to be able to render a hand salute during the National Anthem and during Taps at military funerals while in civilian clothes. I have done so recently and will continue to do so. Thanks for your service to all serve/have served. God bless you.

  127. This website is a lot of fun and distributes a LOT of great info. My thanks to Deb for her efforts. In the question as to whether to salute an Officer, do it! It’s an old, as in very old, sign of respect for the rank they have earned. It’s like calling me “Sarge”. I earned that and respect those that call me that. Same with an Officer. They earned it (most anyway) and should be afforded that sign of respect. It doesn’t matter what service they are in, they are Officers and deserve that respect. (Not to mention it doesn’t hurt to do it). Another factor, the Flag Code doesn’t provide punishment for doing it or not doing it, but (we get into the Article 15 code here) you can be charged for not respecting your officers. And, let’s not get into that debate.
    Thanks for the time to rant.

  128. The one issue I need clarified is what to do inside. Currently I salute outside and place my hand on on my heart inside. Thanks for any assistance you can give.

  129. Kit. I assume since you salute outside you are a veteran and you may also salute inside. Instances include the National Anthem, Placing or Retiring the Colors, Folding and Presenting a Flag, and other occasions that call for saluting. It’s a short answer but they used to tell me if it doesn’t move, pick it up. If it does, salute it. Hope that answers your question and have a great day.

    1. I am retired. However, I assumed the rules were like when active duty in uniform; salute outside, at attention inside, although I put my hand on my heart. I have seen some vets salute inside. I guess it is not critical as long as paying proper respect, but I just want to make sure I do it right. Thanks.

  130. I am a new reader and Vietnam veteran. What is the basis for your interpretations of the changes to the Code in regard to vets saluting while covered with a civilian cover? Is this any kind of “official” ruling? I am a sports official and if I do this, will I be castigated.

    1. Hi Jim, thank you for writing. Congress passed this change in the Flag Code in January 2008, with a quick amendment thereafter to correct some oversights. This change in the statue now permits all military veterans to salute the flag under the same circumstances and conditions in which they would have saluted as active-duty, uniformed, military personnel. This includes civilian-clothed, active-duty military personnel, too. “Not in uniform” by default means any form of civilian dress, including hats of any kind. This means covered or uncovered, indoors or outside. (The only caveats are those from the top brass in the Navy and Marine Corps, who reminded their veterans that 200+ years of tradition is not undone by Congress.)

      As for your conduct in a sporting venue, that is now your personal decision, and I think it is highly unlikely that anyone would ever say anything negative to you about saluting. But if you feel more comfortable, and if you feel like it is a good example and encouragement to those athletes around you (perhaps they are not adults yet), then you can continue to remove your head cover and hold it in your right hand, over your heart during the National Anthem.

      The Flag Code, found in Title 4 of the U.S. Code, addresses this change in Chapter 9, which I have printed out for you below. Here is a link to the U.S. Code, and it works best to type “Flag Code” in the box at the top so you can see the entire document.
      See also the note at the very bottom of my comment.

      §9. Conduct during hoisting, lowering or passing of flag

      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.

      (Added Pub. L. 105–225, §2(a), Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1498; Pub. L. 110–181, div. A, title V, §594, Jan. 28, 2008, 122 Stat. 138.)
      Historical and Revision Notes Revised

      Source (U.S. Code) Source (Statutes at Large)
      9 36:177. June 22, 1942, ch. 435, §5, 56 Stat. 380; Dec. 22, 1942, ch. 806, §5, 56 Stat. 1077; July 7, 1976, Pub. L. 94–344, (17), 90 Stat. 812.


      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.”

      This change in the law includes conduct during the Pledge of Allegiance, and the National Anthem statue is found here:

      Thanks Jim, I hope this helps.
      Best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

  131. Just my humble opinion here. My basis for interpretation is the way I’m reading the changes to the Code. It says vets may salute the flag and at playings of the National Anthem (facing the flag, of course). Period. All others should remove their headgear with their right hand and hold it over their heart. I assume you are talking about a sports arena and whether inside or out, my opinion is you can leave your headgear on and salute if you want. Or, you may remove your headgear and hold the hat over your heart. You’re a vet, tell anyone that wants to castigate you to go look up the code and interpret it for you.
    As far as an “official ruling”, it’s part of the Flag Code. Do you feel out of place standing in an arena by yourself and saluting the flag?

  132. Hello, I have a question about U.S. Flag retirement by burning. I’m a Boy Scout leader (Troop 548 Snellville, GA) and we’ve done many Flag retirements over the years. My question: I’ve heard, and we’ve practiced, that after burning, the brass grommetts are retrieved and presented to Veterans or families of Veterans with a solemn thanks for their service and sacrifice. I don’t remember where I heard this and would like to continue but have an understanding of the reason, if in fact accurate. Please help, we’ve just retired 5 flags on Memorial Day and I’d like to proceed. Thanks very much!
    Steve Swieter

    1. Steve, I’ve done a lot of research on the American Flag and the Code for it and I don’t believe you will find anything that tells you what to do with the grommets. I seem to remember (what I can at my age) that they should be retrieved and given a dignified burial. That’s what we do with them after we have a ceremony (Am Legion). I don’t see anything wrong with presenting them to a veteran if he or she wants them. One thing to keep in mind is that the flag code does not prescribe any punishment for any violation, therefore; do what you want. Just do it respectfully. Hope that helps.

    2. Steve—I’ve been out of town, and now that I’m home, I’m sick. It will be a few days before I feel up to a longer post, but I will respond. Thanks, Deborah

    3. Thank you for writing, Steve, and your patience. This will be a long response, and I apologize, but it’s important information.

      If you do not have a whole copy of the U.S. Flag Code, I urge you to follow the link I will attach at the bottom of this post, and print out a copy (16 pages). Abridged versions of the Code are handy, but I think everyone needs to read the fine print—the historical notes and dates, proclamations, amendments and findings, et cetera. I believe the Flag Code is a historical document in its own right, and should be honored as such.

      Regarding a flag’s brass grommets, I cannot endorse setting aside and giving away any part of a flag after it has been retired. I know there are some service organizations that cut the stars out of the blue field—of flags that need to be retired—and give them our returning military personnel as a token of honor and respect, but I think it is very wrong. I feel the same way about saving the brass grommets to give away.

      From Section 8 Respect for the Flag it says, “No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America.” In Section 8, (j) reads: No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.

      The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.

      “No part of the flag should ever be used … .” I don’t think that those who wrote and codified the Flag Code could have anticipated every thing we do to the flag, to warn us against doing it. But cutting up the flag, saving parts of it, is disrespectful. Why the stars, why the grommets? If you believe the flag is a living thing—and the Flag Code tells us that it is—then parceling it out must surely be wrong. A lot of old flags come into my hands, on their way to retirement. What if I wanted to cut out the star fields and sew them together for a quilt, or a wall hanging? You would rightly be appalled. But isn’t the least star, the least grommet a part of the whole?

      Continuing in Section 8(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.

      In the history of flag manufacturing, the use of brass grommets is fairly recent. Before the advent of brass grommet, flags had an embroidered eye or a rope pocket, all of which would burn up in a fire with the rest of the flag. Generally, the ashes from a retired flag are buried, and I believe the brass should be buried with the ashes.

      It is acceptable however, to bury a flag entirely, without burning it. This method pre-dates the advent of the Flag Code. Of course, the flags of old—made of cotton, wool, or silk, would have quickly decomposed in the earth. Modern flags of nylon or polyester would take much longer to disintegrate in the ground. But there are occasions when a fire would would not be prudent. And of course, any of us can retire a flag, by burning or burial, so long as it is done with respect and honor. If I ever get the patio and fire pit of my dreams, I will retire my own flags, and those that come into my hands.

      In 1984, a protester set fire to an American flag during the Republican Convention in Dallas. Daniel E Walker, who witnessed the event, gathered up the remains of the flag, and gave it proper burial in his back yard. He didn’t want the ashes of this flag to be merely swept up and tossed in a trash can. He was greatly honored for this act, and I hope you will share his story (linked on his name) with your Scouts. And there’s a lot more to the story about this flag than I have mentioned, which the Scouts need to know about, too.

      I know the Boy Scouts have many different kinds of ceremonies for retiring American flags, and I am grateful for their willingness to do that. Some troops take the flag apart completely before burning it, but I think that is very wrong, too, because it violates the personhood of the flag. The Flag Code doesn’t tell us everything we would like to know, thus we must extrapolate as best we can, but the first rule is to show no disrespect to the flag, and I think that means treating it as a whole.

      Link to the entire Flag Code, which includes the most recent updates.

      Thank you again for writing, Steve. I hope this answers your question.
      My best wishes to you and the troop,
      Deborah Hendrick

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