Tag Archives: flag

When to Drape the Deceased

My firefighting friends in California had a great question for me. Here are my thoughts.

What a tragedy to lose a fellow firefighter, emergency medic, or law enforcement officer, let alone a member of the armed forces. However, it does happen and all too often. Since we know that death comes to us all and that it is just a matter of when, it is a good idea to be as prepared as possible. We will concentrate on the earthly traditions following a death, although each individual must give a thought to his everlasting soul before time runs out.

Tradition holds that warriors are draped with the colors under which they fought. That is why our US military service members and veterans have flag-draped caskets. Whether or not one believes, as Marine Corps Major General Smedley D. Butler once said, “War is a racket”, is not the issue, the issue is about rendering respect. Your politics, my politics have zero to do with the situation. This is also why we stand at the appropriate time.

1 Peter 2:17 Show proper respect to everyone.

Romans 13:7 Give to everyone what you owe them: if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

First responders are also “in the fight” in the form of serving the public safety interest on a daily basis. Again, good/bad are not the issue.

Members of the US military receive the American flag. First responders have a choice. If the deceased individual has not made a choice, the family is then asked. If they do not have a preference, the American flag is the default. The choices for first responders are their state and city flags.

NOTE: check your local guidance for any special flag fold procedures. Some states have them, most do not. For any state/municipality without guidance, the rectangle fold is standard, keeping the triangle fold reserved for the American flag. Yes, guidance can dictate the triangle fold.

The question then becomes, when does the body of the deceased get draped with the flag?

AZ "Hotshots"
AZ “Hotshots”

Tragedy struck the Arizona firefighting community a few years ago and it reverberated with firefighters throughout the world. Nineteen firefighters fighting wildfires lost their lives in unimaginable circumstances. This picture is from an unknown source. Some, were horrified that the picture was posted on social media. Read more about that by clicking here. I’m using this photo as an educational example.

Once the dead first responder is discovered, the remains must be moved to a staging area for transportation preparations. At that point, it would be appropriate to cover the remains with a flag. It would also be appropriate to begin Casket Watch at this time.

The deceased do not care, it’s about the family, both relatives and beyond. Showing the utmost care and respect are the best things one can do in these terrible situations. Carrying one or two interment flags (5′ x 9 1/2′) in a vehicle or apparatus is part of preparing for the worst.

There are two types of material for flags, plastic-based and cotton. I highly suggest never giving anything other than a large-star cotton flag to the family. In the field, there is a possibility of the flag becoming soiled. Dry cleaning is perfectly acceptable. If a rayon-type flag is used it is slippery, does not fold well and is quite light. Cotton is heavier. It may be necessary to tuck the flag underneath the body bag or maybe to weight it down with a couple of stones while in the field to prevent it from leaving the remains. While it is not the best situation, I will leave that decision up to those who have to deal with losing a brother- or sister-in-arms: do you even place the flag at that moment and does it need weighting down or do you simply wait until the body is in the coroner’s vehicle.

The Medal of Honor Flag

MOH FlagAll Medal of Honor (MOH) awardees (no one “wins” this medal) are authorized a presentation, at government expense, of the MOH flag.

The following is from the US Army’s Institute of Heraldry.

A light blue flag with gold fringe bearing thirteen white stars in a configuration as on the Medal of Honor ribbon.

The light blue color and white stars are adapted from the Medal of Honor ribbon. The flag commemorates the sacrifice and blood shed for our freedoms and gives emphasis to the Medal of Honor being the highest award for valor by an individual serving in the Armed Forces of the United States.

Public Law 107-248, Section 8143, legislated the creation of a Medal of Honor Flag for presentation to each person to whom a Medal of Honor is awarded after the date of the enactment, October 23, 2002. A panel of eight members made of representatives from each Service (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard), one Office of Secretary Defense staff, one historian and one representative from the Medal of Honor Society was formed to review and evaluate all designs submitted and make a final recommendation to the Principal Deputy to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. On 15 December 2004, the design submitted by Ms. Sarah LeClerc, Illustrator at The Institute of Heraldry was approved.

Public Law 109-364, Section 555, titled “Authority for Presentation of Medal of Honor Flag to Living Medal of Honor Recipients and to Living Primary Next-of-Kin of Deceased Medal of Honor Recipients,” dated October 17, 2006, established authority to award the Medal of Honor Flag, upon written request therefor, to the primary next of kin, as determined under regulations or procedures prescribed by the Secretary of Defense, of deceased Medal of Honor Recipients.

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.


“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/pennant.

  • 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

Ask the DrillMaster: What are we doing wrong with our color guard?

Notre Dame Trimilitary Cadet Color Team, color guard
Notre Dame Trimilitary Cadet Color Team

Question: Since you work with drill teams & know proper flag etiquette, you’re my go-to person on this one. We were told at a national veteran convention by someone from another state that we shouldn’t have an eagle on our state flag staff, only on the US Flag staff. I haven’t found anything about it. Is this accurate? Thanks! B

Answer: Hi B, Thanks so much for the question. Actually, the eagle is only for the president. Army spades are the only authorized finials for all services except the Navy and Coast Guard which both use the battleaxe- except when they are in joint-service situations.

Since veteran organizations are an extension of the military services, they should be following the guidance provided. However, the guidance is kinda difficult to find and can be confusing so I did some research and put everything on my website. The following links are my articles on flags (colors), flagstaffs and ornaments (finials), I hope they are helpful. If they are, please send this information to those you know might benefit from it.

All about ornaments (finials): http://www.thedrillmaster.org/2013/01/31/ask-the-drillmaster-flagstaff-ornaments/

All about the flagstaff: http://www.thedrillmaster.org/2012/10/03/all-about-the-flagstaff/

All about flagstaff sizes: http://www.thedrillmaster.org/2013/03/07/all-about-flag-sizes/

How to mount a flag: http://www.thedrillmaster.org/2012/09/26/how-to-properly-mount-a-flag-on-a-flagstaff/

Fringe on a flag: http://www.thedrillmaster.org/2012/06/26/to-fringe-or-not-to-fringe-that-is-the-question/

DrillMaster Recommends: for a Color Team

I received such a great question that it spurred me into creating a new tag (DrillMaster Recommends) and writing this article. Thank you, Mr. Villanueva!

IMAG0122Question: I’m looking at updating our PD’s flags. Our new Honor Guard would like to purchase an American flag a Texas flag, poles for each and bases. What do you recommend?

For a non-military color team, you could use just about any combination of flagstaffs, ornaments and colors. However, non-military honor guard units are still military-type units and most often follow some sort of military guidance and usually that is the Army’s drill and ceremonies manual, Training Circular (TC) 3-21.5 which was Field Manual (FM) 3-21.5 which was FM 22-5. As far as colors go, nothing has changes from manual to manual. However, I encourage honor guard units to follow the honor guard methods of the military which have been designed and refined to provide the best look, best techniques with a minimum of wear and tear on the body. The Honor Guard Manual is the only complete guide for honor guards available today.

So, here is what I recommend:

DrillMaster RecommendedRifle: (I suggest 4 or 6) Either the black or chrome DrillAmerica M1903 Replica and here is why: Which Drill Rifle is Better? Or, the chrome DrillAmerica M1 Garand replica.

Flagstaff and color (flag): (I suggest 6 staffs and flags: 2 American and 4 state) Proper standard ceremonial colors are 4′ 4″ x 5.5′ on 9′ 6″ light ash 2-piece guidon flagstaffs with the Army Spear/Spade ornament. When working in smaller areas (crowded ballroom, for instance), 3′ x 5′ colors on 7′ 9″ or 8′ 5″ flagstaffs is permissible. For complete information, please read All About the Flagstaff then Flagstaff Ornaments, All About Flag Sizes and whether or not your colors should have fringe. Finally, read How to Properly Mount a Flag on a Flagstaff. Flagstaffs other than described above (i.e. aluminum) are not authorized in the military and that goes for JROTC as well. The only exception to that is Army female cadets may use the aluminum flagstaffs.

Color Bearer Harness: (I suggest 4 parade and 4 practice) The most professional harness, what I’ve used for years and what the presidential service honor guard color teams use, is the black clarino (high gloss) or white leather harness with either chrome or gold-colored hardware just looks superior. Match the hardware color with the uniform accents and the hardware on the flagstaffs for a complete look.

Stands: (I suggest at least 2) My first choice is the Military Floor Stand. Thanks to my working with Wendy Lazar, the founder and previous owner of Glendale Industries (www.paradestore.com), this stand is offered without the extra hardware which holds 2 more flags. My second choice would be the cast iron Admiral Floor Stand which comes with a small plastic sleeve to support a guidon flagstaff’s ferrule or you could also use these Floor Stand Adapters and even use these carrying cases.

Covers: Flagstaff covers the military uses are these Canvas Covers. However, the canvas is relatively lightweight and can easily wear or get a hole in it from a misplaced Army Spear. The nylon cover* is more durable or you could use this airline carrying case for each of your flagstaffs. There are these carrying cases as well.

*Military color teams do not execute the case/uncase sequence during ceremonies except on very rare occasions. JROTC color teams do perform these tasks as part of a competition. The nylon cover is not authorized for competition. Colors are uncased before a ceremony 99.9% of the time.

Equipment links take you directly to my favorite online military equipment supply company, paradestore.com pages.

The Marines Got it Right!

This question has been on the minds of many people- I’ve been asked quite a few times and after some research I found the reason.

Please read this first: To Fringe or Not to Fringe, That is the Question.

A Flag
A flag is flown from a stationary or mounted pole. Flags are never fringed.

A Color
Used in military and military-type organizations. A color is a flag carried by a color team (color guard). Colors are the flags that are fringed. Flags in a flag stand are not mounted and are therefore, called colors.

Service Standards

  • Army, USN, USAF, USCG, USMM: Fringe on all colors carried by a color team.
  • USMC: Fringe on all flags carried by a color team except the American flag/color.
  • Joint Service: When the USMC is the senior service, no fringe on the American color. All other times, fringe on all colors.

Why No Fringe on the American Flag/Color
Title 4, paragraph 1 of the United States Code states:

The flag of the United States shall be thirteen horizontal stripes, alternate red and white; and the union of the flag shall be forty-eight stars, white in a blue field.

It does not mention fringe. Paragraph 3 talks about attaching anything to the flag and how that could be considered mutilation.

So, the Marine Corps is following public law as spelled out in the US Code.

So then, Why Do the Other Services Use Fringe?
Ceremonial use.

While there are many conspiracies throughout the US Government that are not theories at all, the fringe and tassel do not have any merit.

The Executive Order, No.10834, signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on August 21, 1959 and printed in the Federal Register at 24 F.R. 6865, DOES NOT STATE: “A military flag is a flag that resembles the regular flag of the United States, except that it has a yellow fringe border on three sides.” THIS STATEMENT IS FALSE, it does not exist in the EO or anywhere else.