When to Salute the Flag in a Parade

The Flag Code isn’t concise about when to salute the flag in a parade.  The wording is:

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.

USMC Color Guard in the Rose Bowl Parade

USMC Color Guard in the Rose Bowl Parade

So what do you do?  Salute every flag in a parade?  Salute the big ones, salute the ones attached to fire engines, salute the little Popsicle stick flags that the kids on the junior 4-H float are waving, or just stand and salute for the whole parade?

It may just be that the Flag Code wording is is a hold-over from older times when there weren’t as many flags being waved, or it may be that the code was intentionally left vague.  Here’s a couple of the more popular ideas:

One idea, and the one that I follow, is to salute the flag in a parade when it is being presented.  That is, when the flag is the focus or highlight of the group.  All should certainly stand to salute the flag in a parade when it’s first carried, usually by a color guard, and any time that a flag is carried in a formal way.  This includes any time that the flag precedes a marching band, military or government organization, or civil organization.

An interesting interpretation of this is that, as some say, we should salute the colors.  Specifically, the formal flags with a gold fringe.  There isn’t any part of the formal code that supports this though.  The fringe is just an addition and does not carry any special significance.

And some say that we should still salute every flag, whatever the size or way that it is carried.  There’s nothing wrong with saluting every flag, but many feel that it lessens the sincerity, reducing the salute to a mechanical action.

Whichever convention you choose, show your patriotism and set an example for others when the flag passes.  There are too many that ignore the flag and sit through the whole parade.  It’s acceptable for those who can’t stand, but disrespectful and missing the whole idea of most parades.

Proper way to salute the flag in a parade

Face the flag and stand at attention when you salute the flag.  Men should remove their hat, it’s not required for women.  Those in uniform should give a military salute.  It’s optional for veterans and out of uniform military.  All others should place their right hand over their heart.

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