Often times, the purpose of military entertaining is to compliment the moment.
That moment may be a retirement, a post and relief, or a change of command and you can be sure that all will likely have a reception or party that follows.
A successful ceremony should easily transition into a successful reception. It’s the natural flow, and has been for years. But how do we personally achieve this? First and foremost: by understanding our detailed roles – whether as a guest in the bandstand, or a VIP in the front row.
To help you understand I’d like to offer you a quick tutorial on our beloved flag.
One question I hear most often pertains to flag etiquette.
“What are the responsibilities of a spouse, or guest, not in uniform during an important event as the flag passes by?”
This may seem like a minor issue, but in reality, it is of utmost importance that you know what to do as you stand among the active duty men and woman within the command.
To give you a specific example, let’s use a change of command ceremony:
Congratulations! Your spouse has slated for command and more than a million questions are swirling through your mind. Everything from important dates to people to meet, even potential deployments. You’ll find that throughout command, flexibility, fluidity and adaptability will be called for.
However, when it comes to the U.S. Flag Code – none of that applies. The rules are strict and time honored.
For anyone to deviate from the U.S. Flag Code whether knowingly or unknowingly is unacceptable and disrespects our fallen. During the actual ceremony of taking command, there will be a color guard and if you are fortunate enough, a military marching band in full regalia. As the spouse of the incoming commander, you traditionally are seated in the front, left row, second seat in and facing the troops in formation. All eyes will be on you, your fellow spouse, and both the incoming and outgoing commanding officers. As new arrivals to the military, we are all taught to watch the spouse of the senior leader for our cue – when to stand, when to sit, when to place our hand on our heart. The burning question is, who do you watch as the senior leader’s spouse? You can watch your spouse as he or she rises but at this stage of the game, you need to know the rules of etiquette pertaining to the flag so let’s begin!
The United States Flag Code was published by Congress in a joint resolution on June 22, 1942. The Code offers guidance for any and all uses of the American flag. I have provided below the conduct called for during the hoisting, lowering or passing of Old Glory.
Title 4, Chapter 1, Article 9:
§9. Conduct during hoisting, lowering or passing of flag
During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the flag is passing in a parade or in review, 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 present 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.
Clear and straightforward – though missed by so many.
Here is a helpful tip: as the flag comes into your periphery, stand and place your right hand over your heart. As the flag leaves your periphery you may lower your hand and take your seat. Be bold and committed in your actions. Lead with confidence.
The customs and courtesies of the Armed Forces are like nothing else in society. When you take time to learn and embrace them, you honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.