Recently while attending ceremonies where the U.S. Flag was displayed, I noticed some confusion among veterans dressed in civilian clothes regarding proper etiquette saluting the U.S. Flag.
As originally written into Section 594 of the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2009, the law, Public Law No. 110-181 of the United States Code reads as follows: “ all persons present in uniform should render the military salute. Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute. All other persons should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Citizens of other countries present should stand at attention. All such conduct toward the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.”
Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) sponsored the original legislation in the National Defense Authorization Act for the Fiscal Year 2009, and sponsored the amendment that Congress passed which clarifies the legislation and brings all three sections of the U.S. Code together to say the same thing. All veterans are permitted to render a hand salute when the U.S. Flag is raised and lowered, passes in review, during the Pledge of Allegiance, and during the playing of the National Anthem.
With this amendment, all portions of the US code are now consistent for veterans and military out of uniform to salute the flag. Countless veterans have continued to render a military salute to the flag, from the day they first raised their right hand and took an Oath of Allegiance. This option which allows veterans to salute the flag, with a military style salute is voluntary. Many veterans are pleased by the change in the legislation, and many veterans will continue to salute the flag by holding their hands over their heart.
Protocol in the Flag Code reads as follows:
• WHEN THE FLAG IS BEING RAISED OR LOWERED the salute should be given at the moment the process begins and be held until the flag has been raised to the top of the pole or lowered to its base.
• WHEN THE FLAG IS PASSING BY as in a parade or flag ceremony, the salute should be given at the moment the flag passes your position and held until it has passed.
• WHEN THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE is being given, the hand salute should be given before the first words are spoken, and held until the last words have been spoken. Often someone will be delegated to lead in the Pledge. In these circumstances the leader will give instruction to render the salute, and then to drop the salute.
• WHEN THE NATIONAL ANTHEM is played, the salute should be given at the opening note and held until the last note has been played.
With Flag Day approaching, June 14, take time to go to the library or on the internet at wikepedia.com and learn about our “Grand Old Flag.” The next time the red, white, and blue comes in sight, take a moment to reflect on its proud history and remember those gallant men and women throughout the world defending our freedom and those that sacrificed the ultimate by defending her to keep her flying.
Jim Vines is commander of AmVets Post 133.