The American Flag has long been a symbol of freedom, bravery, and respect for our great nation. We hold our flag in high esteem. So much so that there are numerous rules and standards for how a flag should be flown, displayed, worn, etc., which is why it may seem wrong that the American flag is sometimes presented backward on patches and military uniforms. So let’s take a look at why that is and how you can make sure to display your American flag properly and with pride.
Before we discuss why the American flag is sometimes displayed backward, it’s important to discuss the proper etiquette for presenting the flag – a.k.a. Flag Code.
In 1923, the “Flag Code” was created by a number of patriotic organizations under the direction of the American Legion. The code has numerous requirements for honorably displaying the flag. Below are a few of the key points of the Flag Code, but you can learn more by visiting the Veterans Affairs website.
For starters, the United States flag is never to be “dipped” for any reason except when signaling a foreign ship. The flag should never be used as a receptacle or touch anything beneath it including water, merchandise, or the ground. When displayed on a wall or in a window, the Union Blue should be displayed in the top left corner.
If the flag is displayed on a pole, the pole should always be standing vertically rather than leaning to one side. The flag shouldn’t be displayed on flat surfaces or horizontally, as its ability to fly free should never be restricted. Finally, it should never be flown upside down, except in the case of extreme emergency or duress.
Wearing the Flag and Why is it Sometimes Worn in Reverse.
Given all of the rules associated with the Flag Code, it may seem counterintuitive to display the flag backward. But there’s actually a good reason the American flag is sometimes displayed in reverse, especially on military uniforms.
In most cases, it is generally against protocol to wear the American flag as apparel. However, patches are more than acceptable for civilians and military alike to show their patriotism, so long as they are displayed correctly. In the majority of scenarios, the flag is displayed with the blue field in the top left.
There are, however, some exceptions to these rules. Often, when the flag is displayed on vehicles or on the right shoulder, it is often shown in reverse. This is so it appears to be flying in the wind as the wearer or vehicle moves forward. This practice stems from the Civil War when a standard bearer would be tasked with carrying the flag as they charged into battle. As the bearer ran, their forward momentum would cause the flag to stream backward with the stars facing forward and the stripes flying behind.
Arranging the flag backward on uniforms and vehicles is a way of honoring the many battles Old Glory, a nickname for the flag, has been carried into, as well as the countless men and women who have fought under her. It’s meant to celebrate the flag and how it should always be allowed to fly free under any and all circumstances.
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Retiring an Old Flag
There are many patriotic customs surrounding the disposal of an old or tattered flag. In fact, proper disposal is so common that it’s often possible to find a place to retire an older American flag at a location in your hometown.
Many retail locations, like Home Depot and Goodwill, are equipped and trained to properly dispose of an American flag with respect and dignity. Police stations and government centers may also have a depository where old flags are collected and given to organizations such as the American Legion or the Boy Scouts of America, which hold flag retirement ceremonies.
So long as it is carried out respectfully, burning or burying can also be an appropriate way to dispose of an old American flag. In fact, the United States Flag Code states that it is actually preferable to burn the flag, if possible.
In order to do this, the flag should be folded in the appropriate manner and the Pledge of Allegiance should be said as the flag is interred in the flames or buried. It is crucial that, during this process, you reflect on the meaning of the flag and the United States as the ceremony takes place. You can find even more detailed information on how to properly dispose of an American flag by clicking here.
American Flag Patches from Popular Patch
Displaying the American flag is a fantastic way to honor your country and the men and women who have protected our freedom for hundreds of years. If you or a loved one have served and are looking for a way to wear the flag with pride, Popular Patch has a number of patches based on Old Glory.
The “In Memoriam” United States Flag Patch is shaped in the triangle of the folded American flag, representing those veterans who have passed on. We also carry standard American Flag patches both forward and in reverse, for display on the left and right shoulders respectively.
The updated desert version of the American Flag Patch recently adopted for use with desert camouflage is also available. Finally, Popular Patch also carries the U.S. American Revolution of 1776 Flag Patch, as well as a replica patch of the Gadsen-Betsy Ross version of the flag. Shop these and many more American flag patches by checking out our inventory.
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