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Educating the educators about flag protocol

DKH_07 I have a problem, O Reader, and I need some advice:

How do I how do I gently inform a business, school, or an individual that the their flags are being flown improperly? I don’t want to be a busy-body, or the flag police, but honestly—some people just don’t know the right way to fly their flags.

(The flags shown at left ARE being flown correctly, but keep reading.)

When someone emails or telephones me for questions and information about flag protocol, I try very hard to give the right answer, and if necessary I will spend hours researching to figure out the protocol. Sometimes the questions—and answers—are very complicated, and I want to get it right.

But if I am NOT asked for my opinion, do I have any right to approach a person, school, or business that is in gross violation of the flag code?

Continue reading Educating the educators about flag protocol

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Protocol questions—Parades, the Pledge, and the National Anthem

That’s a lot of title, but all the elements are inextricably linked. Yesterday I didn’t post an article on The Daily Flag because I was doing research and answering questions. I am not a flag expert, but I am good at research, and I have patience, a highly useful skill in research. If you ask me a question, I will do my best to give you the right answer. The right answer—the protocol—is often found in precedence or tradition, and not the U.S. Flag Code, or it may come from military protocol.

A recurring question, a two–part question, is which comes first: the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem. The U.S. Code, which is written for civilians, is silent on this. As a school girl, my classmates and I said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning: facing the U.S. flag, standing beside our desks, hands over hearts. This was in Texas, and there was a U.S. flag and a Texas flag in every classroom. (Some sets were small, some were large, and some were silky with gold fringe—but the flags were ubiquitous.)

We sang the Star-Spangled Banner when all the classes were assembled in the auditorium, gymnasium, et cetera. Sometimes we said the Pledge at the same time, but generally we did not, because we’d previously said the Pledge in our classrooms. That was a protocol decided by the school administration.

Which comes first?

Yesterday I spoke with a woman who was planning a large meeting. There was not going to be a color guard—the flags would be in place when the meeting started. She wanted to know which came first? The Pledge or the National Anthem, because a soloist was going to sing the Anthem. I suggested to her, based on previous experience and simplicity, to say the Pledge first. But there is no civilian protocol in the U.S. Code that says it must be done this way.

The Chair, to start the meeting, could ask for all to rise and say the Pledge, and all would sit down. After welcoming remarks and introduction of the soloist, then all could rise again while soloist sang the Anthem.

Would the presence of a color guard have changed the line-up? It seems to me that after the color guard posted the colors, the most natural thing in the world would be to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Last night I watched the All-Star game on television. Singer Sheryl Crow sang the National Anthem while accompanying herself with the guitar. I didn’t see the entire opening, but I’m pretty sure the Pledge of Allegiance was not said, because the National Anthem was traditional to the event, and it was sufficient.

 

Would you all rise …

Another frequent question concerns the color guard and saluting the flag. On this question, the U.S. Code is explicit: all stand, and all salute, in the manner appropriate to your circumstance. In a parade, most of the time everyone is already standing when the color guard passes by, so you salute and hold the salute, until the color guard has passed abreast of your spot. If you are seated in a formal reviewing stand, you stand (probably all simultaneously) then sit again.

 

riding club with colors What if the parade you are watching has more than one set of colors? Last Christmas Larry and I watched a parade and I lost count of the color guards that passed in review, because I think every "group" that participated in the parade was carrying the U.S. flag.

There was an official color guard to lead off the parade, then there were high school marching bands, riding clubs, Shriners, county mounted posse, other civic clubs (Lions, Rotary), the VFW, et cetera. Well, I saluted (hand on my heart) every time an obvious color guard passed in front of me.

 

 

Another question concerned music during the presentation of the colors: Is it appropriate to play music, even patriotic music, during the presentation of the colors? Here are the exact words from the Flag code:

Section 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 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.

(Added Pub. L. 105-225, Sec. 2(a), Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1498.)

It does not address the inclusion of music, but I don’t think one can make an argument from silence and assume that it is ok. The presentation of the colors is a outstanding enough occasion that it does not need further adornment, or "gussied up." Surely we can bear a moment of silence while the flag goes by.

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Parade Protocol for the U.S. Flag

SalutetheFlagDeborah and I were running errands Saturday morning, and darned if a parade didn’t break out in downtown Sattler, Texas (population 30). To be fair, the Canyon Lake area has a population of 29,000 people.

As with all parades, there were flags everywhere, so I got busy taking pictures with my cell phone (I could have sworn the camera was in the car) while Deborah actively watched the parade, standing out front of the Ace Hardware store.

It was a great parade and we enjoyed ourselves very much. Besides horses (riding clubs), there were two marching bands, classic cars (about eight 55-57 Thunderbirds), lots of politicians, and several local organizations represented.

Speaking of flags, it was apparent some of the participants needed to brush up on the U.S. Flag Code. Some of the parade participants displayed the flags improperly, so with that introduction, I would like to give a lecture on parade protocol.

As I’ve written before, the problem appears when the U.S. flag is displayed with other flags. Using the U.S. and Texas flag code as our guide books, I’ll point out the good and the bad from our Christmas parade.

The U.S. Flag Code has plenty to say about parades, with explicit instructions for both those in the parade and those watching.

 Parade Participants

Section 7 of the Flag Code, titled Position and Manner of Display, begins by describing parade protocol for the flag.

The flag, when carried in a procession with another flag or flags, should be either on the marching right; that is, the flag’s own right, or, if there is a line of other flags, in front of the center of that line.
(a) The flag should not be displayed on a float in a parade except from a staff, or as provided in subsection (i) of this section.
(b) The flag should not be draped over the hood, top, sides, or back of a vehicle or of a railroad train or a boat. When the flag is displayed on a motorcar, the staff shall be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.

(i) When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag’s own right, that is, to the observer’s left. When displayed in a window, the flag should be displayed in the same way, with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street.

 

LeadColorGuard Parade Color Guard

The parade Color Guard led off with five flags. At first glance everything looks good, but if you’ll click the picture to see it larger, it isn’t. I can identify four of the flags, and have a guess to the fifth. They are displayed in this order: front row, U.S. flag, riding club flag, Texas flag, followed by a local flag, and the Mexican flag. I will give them credit for having the U.S. flag in the proper place, but the other four are wrong.

Using the U.S. Flag Code in conjunction with the Texas flag code, the flags should have been presented, in order; U.S. flag, Mexican flag,Texas flag, local flag, then the riding club flag.

My suggestion for the best way would be to present the U.S. flag in the lead with a line of the other four flags, in the order I assigned above, in a second row. That would be best the best way to showcase the American flag.

ProperFlagDisplayThe Shriners marched their own Color Guard and all the flags were displayed in the right order.

The American flag is to parade right, with the Mexican National flag second, the Texas flag third, then their organization flag on the far left.

This is a positive example of a group taking the time to know and understand the proper display of all the flags involved. They didn’t have to display all four flags, but in doing so, it’s nice to see it done right.

The Shriners, with their variety of little cars and motorcycles participate in a lot of parades, and I applaud this organization for knowing proper flag protocol.

Float Displays

1208071111a Local VFW Post #8573, which I wrote about on Veteran’s day, used a trailer as a float in the parade. The flags were mounted on the very back of the trailer and technically displayed correctly.

The U.S. flag is mounted in the center and higher than the other two flags. The Texas flag is displayed to the parade’s right (Texas flag code) and the POW-MIA flag to the parade’s left. This meets all the requirements of the U.S. and Texas Flag Codes.

Though their flag display is correct, I think it would be more fitting if the flags were mounted on the front of the trailer, leading the way forward—rather than riding drag (cattle drive reference).

Vehicle Displays

FiretruckFlagsClamped to the right fender” is the correct way to display the U.S. flag on a vehicle according to the Flag Code. In the picture, you’ll notice the U.S. flag attached to the right fender and the Texas flag attached to the left fender on the fire truck.

The Texas Flag Code states,

§ 3100.064. DISPLAY ON FLAGSTAFF ON MOTOR VEHICLE. If the state flag is displayed on a flagstaff on a motor vehicle, the staff should be attached firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender. If the flag of the United States and the state flag are displayed on flagstaffs on a motor vehicle:

(1) the staff of the flag of the United States should be clamped to the right fender of the vehicle; and

(2) the staff of the state flag should be clamped to the left fender of the vehicle.

Most of the vehicles displayed the two flags properly.

Parade Watchers

The photograph at the top of the page shows not only the flags properly displayed, but in the background you’ll see two people respectfully holding the right hand held over the heart, which is correct. Section 9 of the Flag Code addresses this in detail.

Section 9 (in its entirety)

During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the flag is passing in a parade or in review, all persons present except those in uniform should face the flag and stand at attention with the right hand over the heart. Those present in uniform should render the military salute. When not in uniform, men should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Aliens should stand at attention. The salute to the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.

Now you know how to act at your next parade. And if you are in charge, make sure the lead Color Guard displays the flags right.

Also, if you get pictures of flags in your local Christmas parade, send them in with narrative and we’ll publish them for everyone’s enjoyment.

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POW/MIA Recognition Day on Friday

POW/MIA FlagTomorrow is POW/MIA Recognition Day, which always falls on the third Friday of September. POW/MIA Recognition Day honors the commitments and the sacrifices made by our nation’s prisoners of war and those who are still missing in action. Observances of National POW/MIA Recognition Day will be held across the country on military installations, ships at sea, state capitols, schools and veterans’ facilities.

POW/MIA Recognition Day is one of six days throughout the year that Congress has mandated the flying of the National League of Families’ POW/MIA flag. The others are Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day. The flag is to be flown at major military installations, national cemeteries, all post offices, VA medical facilities, the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the official offices of the secretaries of state, defense and veterans affairs, the director of the selective service system and the White House.

A special ceremony is scheduled at the Pentagon with troops from each of the military services, and all across the nation there will be ceremonies conducted by civilian POW/MIA organizations.

The POW/MIA flag is accorded the very rare honor of being flown “ahead” of state flags. When displayed from a single flag pole, the POW/MIA flag should fly directly below, and be no larger than, the United States flag.

If on separate poles, the U.S. flag should always be placed to the right of other flags. On the six national observances for which Congress has ordered display of the POW/ MIA flag, it is generally flown immediately below or adjacent to the United States flag as second in order of precedence.

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How to Conduct Yourself at the Ballgame

If you attend many ball games (football, baseball) you see all types of behavior while the flag is hoisted, and the National Anthem is played. The U.S. Flag Code addresses this in Section 9, giving specific instructions for both civilians and military personnel. Here is Section 9 in its entirety.

During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the flag is passing in a parade or in review, all persons present except those in uniform should face the flag and stand at attention with the right hand over the heart. Those present in uniform should render the military salute. When not in uniform, men should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Aliens should stand at attention. The salute to the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.

Usually, many people seem confused, and aren’t quite sure what they are supposed to do, taking their cue from those around them. If the immediate crowd is standing quietly, hand over heart, they assume that posture. If the group is rowdy, talking loudly, and cutting up, they tend to lean to that style, not wanting to bring attention to themselves.

I’m here to assure you, that if you do the right thing, you will influence the people around you, and the proper conduct will result. One person at a time, we can make a difference in the attitude of the crowd.

And if you know the words of the National Anthem … sing them. It’s OK. I promise. You may not be Whitney Houston, but surely you’re not Roseanne Barr either.

Speaking of Whitney—here is her rendition of the Star Spangled Banner … enjoy.

You’ll notice that a few of the crowd shots include people singing with their hand over their heart, but the majority are not.

And if you’re a glutton for punishment, here is a link to Roseanne’s rendition. I just can’t bring myself to include it on The Daily Flag.