Flag Etiquette at Parades

Whether you’re marching in a parade or enjoying one as part of a crowd, there are some flag etiquette items of which you should be aware. We’ve compiled some of the top points so that you can make sure you’re properly showing respect for Old Glory.

Flag Procession & the Color Guard

During patriotic occasions, such as the 4th of July or Labor Day, a parade is led by a color guard. This group of flag proceeds in the first place of honor, even before and celebration-specific banners.

The individuals that serve in the color guard, usually local figures, veterans or local service members, are selected by the parade organizers.

The American flag should be in one or two positions during a parade. These position options are:

1. Old Glory leads the parade alone, or

2. Old Glory is placed at the right of the color guard while it faces forward.

The second option ensures that the U.S. flag is to the left for the parade onlookers.

Other regulations of note while carrying the flag in a parade include:

  1. The American flag should never be dipped below any other flag.
  2. The flag may be joined by the state flag, service flags and organizational flags in the color guard. The state and service flags are best placed on the same line as the U.S. flag (or behind it if it marches solo). Organizational flags are better placed behind the line of national, state and service flags. The state’s flag should be carried to the U.S. flag’s left.
  3. During pauses throughout the parade, all other flags should be slightly dipped below the height of the U.S. flag.
  4. If the flags of other nations are appropriately displayed in the parade, they should be to the immediate left of the U.S. flag, in alphabetical order. Then the state and service flags should follow.

Flag Respect for Parade Onlookers

There are lots of fun components to a parade such as candy tosses, patriotic music played by marching bands and creative floats transporting members of the community. While enjoying a parade from the sidelines, onlookers should be aware of the expected etiquette when the American flag passes.

According to USFlag.org, “when the flag passes in a procession, or when it is hoisted or lowered, all should face the flag and salute. To salute, all persons come to attention. Those in uniform give the appropriate formal salute. Citizens not in uniform salute by placing their right hand over the heart and men with head cover should remove it and hold it to left shoulder, hand over the heart. Members of organizations in formation salute upon command of the person in charge.”

Onlookers do not have to salute every single flag that they see, but, they should most definitely stand up for the color guards and veterans who are displaying a flag and salute the flag.

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