Military and Police

Forget Politically Correct: How to Honor the American Flag

By Josh Garrison:

As a 41 year old with over 40 deployments serving our great nation, my patriotism is etched in blood and sacrifice.  For most Americans, the most patriotic thing they will ever do is display our nations flag.  This simple act bridges the gap between those who have been there and those who support them for it.  I swore to protect Ol’ Glory and hopefully this short piece will help you honor her in the way she was meant to be honored.

If you’re still reading then you know the obvious things. Don’t let it touch the ground, don’t burn it in effigies. It’s a flag.  It’s not a napkin, paper plate, table cloth, tissue and I swear to God I will burn the store down if I ever see it, toilet paper.  Title 1 Chapter 4 of the U.S. Code lays down the law for what we commonly refer to as “flag etiquette.”  Unlike most of the U.S. Code, this was written to be understandable by all.  I am not going to bore you with every scenario but it is a good read and with a little imagination every scene in the do’s and don’ts truly makes sense.

As I mentioned above, the flag is not disposable.  Enough said but just as important is the orientation of the flag.  For once in my life I am going to say it… think left.  If our flag, hung almost anywhere, in any orientation, should be to the observers left.  What does this mean?  If she is hanging on a wall either vertically or horizontal, the blue field should be on the left to the observer.  If our colors are grouped with other flags, again she goes to the left.

Now for the caveat to that and probably the wrong I see most often and yes even on Michael Phelps’ shower cap. The backwards flag.  I wish the U.S. Code was clearer on this but having crammed four years of Military Science into one year at New Mexico Military Institute I am going to go out on a limb here and call myself an expert.  If it moves, the blue field goes to the front.  Military service members in combat wear what is called the right shoulder patch.  It is a U.S. flag patch that is printed with the blue field to the right.  Why?  As Americans we never retreat.  Think of it as a flag, on a staff, marching into battle.  Regardless of your perspective, the blue field will always be to the front.  This goes for your planes, trains and automobiles and in my opinion Olympic swimmers.  Yes GTS (Google That S#!&).  Our Olympic hero had his flag on backwards.

Then the code issues the hardest of all pills to swallow.  The flag is not an article of clothing.  This means your hot ass girlfriend’s American flag bikini is wrong.  Why?  Because your wife’s red, white, and blue nightgown is getting the Dutch oven all night.  I know your skin tight, extra small workout shirt with the flag skull on it looks buff but I never once spent a day in combat thinking I’m here for God, Country, and Under Armor.  The code states without debate that our flag should never be used for advertising purposes.  So when you pull into the Econo Lodge in Madison, GA and see the Econo Lodge flag flying on the same flagpole as Ol’ Glory know that one day I will have me a little souvenir from Middle Georgia to go along with those from the Middle East. Wait I almost forgot, Colin Kaepernick… you suck.

Josh Garrison is an OpsLens Contributor with over 50 combined deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Josh is a Purple Heart recipient who served operationally in varied roles with a U.S. Army Long Range Surveillance Unit and other government agencies involved in intelligence and counterterrorism missions.


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