The Proper Standard; Flag Use and Decorum in Parades

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The Proper Standard authors Ross and Hunter Simmons

While there is no greater symbol of freedom world-wide than “Old Glory,” the authors believe that its patriotic display is only mildly more inconvenient, but far more reverent and appropriate, if done compliant with federal law and consistent with the Rules of Flag Etiquette.

Flag Use and Decorum in Parades

Surely there are few sights more stirring for citizens of our country than that of our national flag flown during a parade.  Civic pride is appropriately provoked by the pomp and pageantry of such times, and too, these community gatherings and celebrations are fitting occasions to reflect on the many gifts of our citizenship, and the sacrifices made by those who secured them.  Still, the flag of the United States must be afforded its proper and fitting place apart from and above the ancillary festivities.

In parades themselves, the flag of the United States is generally to be carried in the front.  Accordingly to Section 7 of the Flag Code, if it is carried with another flag or flags, the flag of the United States “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.”  “No other flag or pennant should be placed above or, if on the same level, to the right of the flag of the United States of America.  Flag Code, Section 7(c).  (Section 7(b) cautions that generally, the flag should not be displayed on a float in a parade except from a staff.)

Section 9 provides that the salute to the flag should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.  All persons present should face the flag and stand at attention, and except for those in uniform, should place their right hand over their heart.  Those 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.

Question: I will soon be traveling abroad and will have occasion to be a spectator at a parade in a foreign country. Given my United States citizenship, and my commitment and oath to this country, what tribute, if any, should I pay to the flag of foreign countries should they be displayed on this occasion?

Answer: The provisions of the Flag Code apply to the display and respect shown for flag of the United States, so have no literal application. However, Section 9 of the Flag Code provides that “[a]liens should stand at attention” during any ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the flag is passing in a parade or in review. This symbolizes that, while we do not ask foreign nationals to pledge their allegiance or otherwise afford undue reverence to our flag in deference to their own citizenship elsewhere, certainly it is expected that they show their respect for our national emblem and the country for which it stands during their time here. Applied by analogy, as a citizen in the United States, we believe that the Flag Code recognizes world custom, and you should stand at attention at any time the foreign flag is hoisted or lowered, without formal salute, and do the same at the moment the flag passes in a parade or in review.

Authors Ross Simmons and his son, Hunter, are life members of the National Eagle Scout Association, and Ross is Scoutmaster at Imperial’s Troop 4070. Have a question of Flag Etiquette? Please submit your questions or photos to submit@properstandard.com. (By submitting, you’re licensing content for use.)