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Presenting the Colors—how to conduct a flag ceremony indoors

Yesterday I received an email through the contact page asking:

Can you tell me if there is a ceremonial procedure for carrying the flag from one end of a room to another for posting prior to the start of a meeting?

I sent an answer to CD, but my response bounced right back to me. There’s a server problem on the other end, and CD may not even know it. I want to answer here, and hope that CD sees it.

We often think that we need people in uniforms (Boy Scouts, ROTC, et cetera) to present the colors, and certainly that is a traditional and customary way to do it, but any of us can present the colors. I’m sure the Daughters of the American Revolution must do their own flag presentations. To my knowledge, there are no specific rules within the U.S. Code on how to present the colors. So this is my suggestion, and it relies heavily on military tradition and instructions for Boy Scout.

The person in charge of the event should ask all there to please stand. "All rise," and when everyone is standing (who are able), then "Color Guard, please present the colors."

The U.S. flag is always carried aloft and free, never flat or horizontally. If the U.S. flag is the only flag carried, it should have an honor guard to its left, or two honor guards, one on each side.

When carried with other flags, as in a straight line abreast, the U.S. flag is carried on its own right side—all the way to the right—of other flags.

Sometimes when a lot of flags (usually five or more) are carried, then the U.S. flag is positioned in the center and in front (one or two steps) of the other flags, or the other flags are carried slightly lower than the U.S. flag so that the U.S. flag is prominent.

DKH_21If a state flag is presented too, then the state flag is positioned to the immediate left of the U.S. flag, then civic, club, or corporate flag to the left of the state flag (and those are determined by chronological order of their historic or original charter—just like state flags).

As the color guard comes down the approach, the flag stands having been pre-positioned, the party will slow or even come to a stop. The U.S. flag goes first, turning left and crossing in front of the other flags and is placed first into the flag stand, then the other flags go in order after that.

Frequently the U.S. flag will be on the one side (the right side as it faces the audience) of the stage or platform, with the state flag on the other side, but they don’t have to be separated. Just remember that the U.S. flag is always to the right of the arrangement when in final position and facing the audience.

Usually in a group setting, everyone will salute the flag at the beginning and hold it until the flags are returned to the flag stands (and Boy Scouts will be given the order to salute), but if the venue is large, then one salutes the flag as it passes abreast of your position, and holds the salute until the flag has cleared your position.

All the usual and customary rules apply for saluting.

In a Boy Scout flag ceremony, the Scouts will recite the Pledge of Allegiance before "posting" the colors, or putting the flag back into the flag stand. The color guard will be facing the audience and the person in charge of the event will say (for example), "Will you please join me in the Pledge of Allegiance." When finished, the flags will be inserted into the flag stands.

But the flags could be placed first, and then recite the Pledge. Depending on the ceremony, someone might be invited on-stage to lead the Pledge, which would be a lovely way of giving special recognition.

Here is an entry on The Daily Flag from February 5, 2008, that links to a color guard ceremony in Hawaii that is uncomplicated and beautiful.

The image used above comes from