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Literally Cutting the American Flag


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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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The Color Guard for the Disabled

Disabled Colors Side

Many disabled and paralysed veterans across the country want to take part in Veterans Day, Memorial Day parades and other celebrations even taking part in honor guard duties at funerals.

The picture above is an example of two members taking part in a color guard. While the picture below is another example, this time of a full color guard. What I created below includes the American flag, a state flag and all of the service colors in joint service order (Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard- for info on this click here). This image was created for visual balance, but you can have any combination of standing members and members in wheelchairs.

When moving forward, you can stay in step or not, it doesn’t matter. Also, holding the flagstaff straight up or at an angle is your choice. If the staff is quite long, you can rest it on a wheelchair footrest, hold the shorter flagstaff with one or both hands while resting it on the seat.

While some may feel that all of this information is straight-forward, not everyone deals with this issue until it comes up and when it comes up, there really isn’t any information available. Now, we have the information.

Disabled Colors Wedge Formation

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Ask the DrillMaster: Rendering Respect

It’s unfortunate that some zealous and yet so very uninformed veterans and even civilians feel they need to chastise someone for the way they are rendering honors during a veteran’s funeral. I received a question from a veteran regarding the procedures he follows- training he received while in the Army- at veteran funerals while he is there as a member of a veteran/civilian group that forms a “wall” of people.

Dear DrillMaster,

Thank you for your response to my email.

There is an ongoing disagreement of holding the American Colors in the right or left hand at parade rest. I gave up on this issue as I know right hand is correct.

When the hearse and family vehicles approach, I come to attention, raising the American colors to the center of my chest/body with right hand over left [on the flagstaff]. After they or the procession pass, I recover to attention and then parade rest position with the American Colors at my side .

I often stand away from the funeral or memorial service out of respect for the family. When the Honor Guard is called to attention as the veteran is removed and carried to the grave site, I again come to attention,  “present arms” and follow the commands of the Honor Guard.

During the firing of the volley and taps, the Honor Guard remains at present arms and then recovers, finally leaving the burial site, at which time I also march off to my vehicle, colors at my side.

Much as the rifle is held for present arms, I hold the staff with the American Colors. The [veteran group] stands at attention or some form of attention but will not raise the American Colors to a fallen veteran.

I am not in uniform, just a veteran showing final respects to another fallen veteran. I do not want recognition or credit for anything I do but am growing tired of the criticism of those who sit on the sidelines and do little or nothing. My intentions are respect!

I could not find an answer to my question in the flag code and also searched the DOD and Army manuals looking for an answer. I’m looking to you as an expert for guidance.

John B.

My Response
Dear Mr. B.

I have attached a letter to this email in PDF format that will explain that you are actually doing the proper thing and showing respect.

To whom it may concern,

By bringing his American flag that is on a pole up to the center of his body, Mr. John B. is executing the move that is called Right Shoulder- for a color/flag. This move is perfectly acceptable and appropriate for any occasion and is most appreciated by knowledgeable military veterans when a deceased veteran’s coach and family pass by.

With or without a colors harness, this position helps show respect for a fallen comrade. I have included pictures from my book, The Honor Guard Manual, for clarification:

The Position of Attention

DSC_0570_825x2933 DSC_0578_743x2634 DSC_0580_846x2635

The Position of Attention with a Color

The Position of Right Shoulder with a Color

The Position of Stand at Ease and Parade Rest with a Color

 I don’t know why these pictures will not render at the same size, apologies.

I hope this clears up any misconception that anyone may have about the intentions and also the procedures that Mr. B. follows.

If I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to call or email.