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Literally Cutting the American Flag

from southplattesentinel.com
from southplattesentinel.com

A tattered or faded American Flag is ready for retirement. Retiring an American flag means to burn it. Some people feel that burning a flag, no matter the situation, is still disrespectful. In the flag retirement situation, nothing could be further from the truth.

Burning and Burning
There is a big difference! Americans, who love their country and flag, do not treat that flag with disrespect. We do not just throw it away in the garbage when it is no longer fit for everyday display. There are exceptions to this with historic tattered flags on display across the country. When the flag is no longer suitable for daily display, we take the flag, fold it into a rectangle, and burn it. Some Americans feel the need to burn our country’s flag because they are unable to form a cogent, coherent argument and need to stand on a corner in front of others and push their disrespectful agenda in the face of others by flying a burning American flag.

from conservativepost.com
from conservativepost.com

Side note: I support freedom of speech and some view burning our flag as just that. I will defend the right of people who want to act irresponsibly and burn our flag. I do not like the action, but I do not have to watch and I can treat flags in my charge with respect and care as I hope you will.

The difference? Respect has everything to do with it.

Flag Retirement the Wrong Way

from coladaily.com
from coladaily.com

If you cut the stars from the stripes, it’s not longer the American flag and you can then feel better about burning it. I guess that is the illogical reasoning behind this act of initial disrespect to the flag to avoid disrespect to the flag.

from gps.edu
from gps.edu

Boy and Girl Scouts and many veteran organizations across the country are practicing this disrespect to our flag.

I do not know when or where it started, but it needs to stop right now! We need to educate cadets and Scouts as well as our well-meaning veterans.

Recently, I read a reply to my comment on a social media account that stated ‘since a flag company says on their website that it is OK, we are going to cut our flags.

Flag Retirement, the Correct Way
At home, make a fire on your grill. Fold your flag into a rectangle (no, it does not represent a casket) and place it on the fire. A flag folded into a triangle is much more difficult to burn due to all of the folded layers.

from democraticunderground.com
from democraticunderground.com

In a public ceremony, place the representative flag, folded in a triangle on a very hot fire and follow one of the ceremony guidelines linked below. Burn the rest of the flags eligible for retirement in an incinerator or a roaring fire, preferably not in public.

from democraticunderground.com
from democraticunderground.com

The National Flag Foundation’s Flag Retirement Ceremony

Click here to read the American Legion’s Unserviceable Flag Retirement Ceremony adopted in 1937.

As you can see, no one has ever advocated cutting the canton (blue field) from the stripes. It is extremely disrespectful to do so and it does not matter what some flag-based website has to say as far as a recommendation. Not even this one. I am providing links to professional guidance set forth by groups with the intention of providing the utmost respect.

Associated article: Disrespect to the American Flag

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Christian Flag over American Flag?

Christian over American FlagYes. On church grounds, inside or out, the Christian flag can be flown above the American during services.

Here is the link to the interview of the pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church.

Click here to read other posts with the tag, flag etiquette.

THe following is an excerpt from my book, The Honor Guard Manual.

MYTH

“Nothing can be above the American flag.” Part II

The only flag that may be flown above or to the right of the American flag is… The Christian flag.

  • American Law: The Bill of Rights, Article 1, The Constitution of the United States: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
  • The United States Navy: During the Service of Divine Worship led by the Fleet Chaplain, a triangular Pennant of White with a blue Latin cross is flown at the masthead above the American flag.
  • The State of California: Excerpted from Stars, Stripes and Statues, National Flag Foundation, p. 66, item 2. No flag or pennant shall be placed above, or if on the same level, to the right of, the United States flag, except flags flown during church services.

The Code for the Christian Flag

  1. When the Christian flag is on the floor level, the Christian flag is placed to the right, front, of the congregation and outside of the communion railing.
  2. When the Christian flag is placed within the chancel, communion railing or choir loft, it is placed to the right side of the altar, of the clergymen, and of the choir as they face the congregation.
  3. When the Christian flag is displayed with the American flag and/or other flags:
    1. The American flag and/or other flags may be placed symmetrically on the opposite side of the sanctuary and on the same level as the Christian flag.
    2. If desired, it is also proper to place the Christian and national flags side-by-side wherever stationed in the church, thus symbolizing both the spiritual and patriotic loyalties of the congregation.
    3. When the flags are placed side-by-side, the Christian flag is always stationed on the right of all other flags.
    4. The Christian flag never dips to any other flag. It may properly dip to the altar Cross.
  4. Use of the Christian flag in other situations:
    1. Where a Cross is carried in a processional, the Cross leads, followed by the Christian flag.
    2. In a single-column processional, the Christian flag precedes all other flags.
    3. In a double-column processional, the Christian flag is on the right.
    4. When the Christian flag is on the same flagpole with any other flag, the Christian flag receives the top position.
    5. Where the Christian flag and another flag are on separate poles, the Christian flag is on the right as it faces the street or audience.
    6. In placing the Christian flag staff in its supporting base, it should be adjusted so that the blue canton and Cross are turned toward the congregation.
    7. No other symbol or flag should ever be placed above the Cross.

Christian Flag Code information courtesy of: www.steve4u.com/christian/facts.htm

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When to Raise and Lower the American Flag

Flag NomenclatureI received these questions just a short time ago.

1. At the beginning of the work day (duty day) when raising the U.S. flag in conjunction with a state flag which one is flown first? I believe it to be the U.S. flag.
Answer: Per the Flag Code, the American flag is always raised first.

2. When lowering the flags at the end of the day which one is lowered first? U.S. or state flag?
Answer: Per the Flag Code, the American flag is always lowered last. The state flag is lowered and gathered into someone’s arms and then the American is lowered and gathered. Both can be folded at the same time.

3. In a ceremony such as a high school graduation should the National Anthem be performed before or after the Pledge of Allegiance?
Answer: The National Anthem is played while the flag is being raised or when the color team (guard) posts to the front of the auditorium. The Pledge of Allegiance is recited after the flag is raised or when the color team posts to the front of the auditorium in place of the Anthem. There is no need for both the Anthem and Pledge. One or the other suffices.

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Flag Pole Height Chart and Maritime Flag Arrangements

Flag Pole HeightFor our purposes, flagpole means a permanent pole cemented into the ground and flagstaff is one that is carried.

For flagpoles a general rule of thumb is the height of the flag should be 1/3 or 1/5 the height of the flagpole (the pole should be three or five times the height of the flag). Here is an example.

For a twenty-five foot flagpole:

  • 1/5 of twenty-five is five.
  • 1/3 of twenty-five is eight (rounded down).

Flying a flag that is larger than recommended could result in damage to the flagpole, halyard and/or hardware.

Standardized Military Flag Sizes:

These are the only authorized flag sizes flown from military flagpoles for each service.

  • Storm Flag: 5’x9’
  • Post/Base Flag: 10’x19’
  • Garrison Flag: 20’x36’

Flagpole and Equivalent Flag Size Chart (1/5)

15’: 3’x5’
20’: 3’x5’ – 4’x6’
25’: 4’x6’ – 5’x8’
30’: 5’x8’ – 6’x10’
35’: 6’x10’ – 8’x12’
40’: 6’x10’ – 10’x15’
45’: 8’x12’ – 10’x15’
50’: 10’x15’- 12’x18’
60’: 10’x15’- 15’x25’
70’: 12’x18’ – 20’x30’
80’: 15’x25’ – 20’x38’
90’: 15’x25’ – 20’x38’
100’: 15’x25’ – 30’X60’

Maritime Flag Arrangements

Maritime Mast

For the most part, the provisions of the Flag Code are manifest in the traditions and customs for the display of the Ensign ( American flag) by seamen. The following provisions are made for the display of the flag on a mast located on a base.

1. Single Mast (no Yard or Gaff)
” Ensign is flown at the truck (#1).
” All other flags are pennants flown below Ensign.

2. Mast with Yard:
” Ensign is flown at the truck (#1).
” Organizational burgee (flag) is flown at the starboard (right) yard arm (#3).

3. Mast with a Yard and Gaff:
” Ensign is flown at the gaff (#2).
” Burgee is flown at the truck (#1).
” Flags at #3 and #4 vary depending on the activity at the organization.

It is display #3 which causes the most confusion. This puts the club burgee in a higher position physically, but not above that of the Ensign symbolically. By the normal Flag Code provisions, this would seem to be an incorrect display. The tradition of the seas, however, is to hold the gaff as the position of honor; thus, the intent of this tradition and display is to give proper respect to the flag.

Where a yard is involved, rules provide that when a foreign ensign is displayed, the Ensign is flown at #3; the foreign ensign at #4; the club burgee at #1; and other flags at #2.

The gaff extends aft (to the rear), and a mast on yacht club grounds is faced seaward. Therefore the gaff will (or should) be directed toward the land. The observation point then becomes a point somewhere on the sea side of the mast. This then makes the placement of the Ensign in regard to the foreign ensign conform to Flag Code provisions.

 

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The Flagpole with Two Halyards and the Intended Direction of Display

Flagpole 2 HalyardsWhen I travel, I am usually aware of flag displays and other ceremonial aspects that many people don’t recognize. In the two pictures above, you can see three flags displayed on a flagpole that has a two halyard system at a rest stop where my wife and I had lunch.

I am posting this to educate people, not call out any one person or a state. The individual(s) who put up these flags had the right idea, but as you can see this is not the way to display the flags. I am standing on the side of the intended direction of display. Notice the American flag on the left side of the pole and the POW/MIA and state flags on the right- but below the American. This is OK, but improvements can be made.

You can see in the picture below how to display flags from a stationary flagstaff/flagpole that has two separate halyards/ropes. The intended direction of display (even if the pole can be seen from 360 degrees) dictates where the flags go. These two illustrations show an intended display in your direction with the AMerican flag to the viewer’s left.

Flag Pole with Two Halyards- Close

The picture above shows the POW/MIA flag flown directly below the American flag. Any flag flown below the American flag on the same halyard can actually be attached to the American flag’s bottom clip.

Flag Pole with Two Halyards- Space

The picture above shows the POW/MIA flag flown with random space below the American flag. There isn’t a rule that dictates whether space is needed or the amount of space.

 

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The Case for Cased Flags and Colors

Honor Guard Cased FlagA Cased Flag

At right is a picture of a cased flag (this is a folded interment flag). Once the American flag is folded, it is considered cased and does not receive a salute.

Here is an example: the flag is brought down in the evening from a stationary flagpole. The team folds it, forms up and marches away (with one member holding the flag like the picture at right- point up or down does not matter) to store the flag in a specific room for the night. On the way back to the building, the team encounters cadets who stop and render a salute as the folded flag passes. While, saluting is not wrong, it is not necessary and communicates that you are unaware of published guidance regarding the flag.

Point up or down?
When carrying the cased (folded) American flag, tradition for the military services dictates as follows: Army and Air Force, point up; Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard, point down. As far as I know, it is just tradition so, do not believe the, “You must always..” statements.

MacAruther Color Guard Dipping Cased ColorA Cased Color
Just as a cased flag does not receive a salute, a cased color does not render a salute.

Literally every team in the JROTC community follows the example that is pictured here. This is a picture of the MacArthur color guard in a recent competition. Thank you to the MacArthur High School cadet who allowed me to use this picture and who was truly interested in this issue.

Why does every team dip the cased color? Because a salute from a color team involves dipping non-national colors and this is something that one would not really think twice about. None of the service drill and ceremonies manuals (you can find them all here) discuss this because it has never been and is never an issue for the military. It is drill meets that create issues like this.

When we bring cased flags and colors into one discussion, we can then make logical decisions. Dipping a cased color is not proper. Cased colors never receive a salute, so it follows that they would not render a salute. It’s like dipping a bare flagstaff- there is no reason to do so.

“Individuals or units passing or being passed by uncased Colors out of doors render honors.” T.C. 3-21.5 (emphasis mine)

So now what?
Spread the word. Educate as many people as possible. Print this article and when you attend your next drill meet, bring up this issue at the meeting and let everyone know that you will not be dipping your cased color and that he judges need to allow dipping and not dipping for the time being until everyone is fully educated. I will send a link for this article to the each service JROTC headquarters to help disseminate the information. Knowledge is key!

See also: How to Fold the Fringed American Flag

One more thing
In the MacArthur JROTC picture above, the team’s equipment is comprised of nine-foot six-inch flagstaffs and three-foot by 5-foot colors. These sizes are not meant to be mixed together (see my article here) however, teams use the larger flagstaffs and smaller colors so that the color bearers can see. Marching at close interval with the larger colors creates problems because the team members can not rely on anything else but sight and if the flag is in a team member’s face, there is a good chance the team will eventually be out of alignment and step. If they were shoulder-to-shoulder, appropriately sized colors and staffs would not be an issue.