The ridiculous and ceremonialer flag tilt

Making Things More “Ceremonialer”

DrillMasterColor Guard/Color Team, Commentary, Honor Guard 2 Comments

“Ceremonialer” is the term I created as I’ve watched members of the military, first responders (many who are veterans), and cadets perform movements that do not bring any more reverence or honor to what they are doing at ceremonies becuase these movements or techniques are based on ego.

When it comes to the American flag and rendering honors, never should anyone use the thinking, “It’s not specifically prohibited, so we can do it.”

While the following may seem more like personal pet peeves, there is reasoning behind why a team should not perform these movements and techniques.

The Tilt During the Flag Fold

  • Description: Two team members march to the front of the room with an American flag, they unfold it, open it up fully and, instead of going directly back into refolding it (as they should), they tilt the flag toward the audience.
  • Why not to do it: While, technically, The Tilt is benign and may add some sort of emotional accent, the move is not in any flag fold guidance. The only time the flag is brought to this position is when it is popped open after unfolding (accomplished for an urn sequence) and the team does not have room to bring it horizontally flat.

The Head Bow, Saluting Each Other, & The Salute Fest

  • Description: During Casket Watch, the Watch Guards posted at the casket bow their heads until the Relief Watch Arrives for the changing of the guard(s). This is also applicable to other ceremonies.
  • Why not to do it: When at the position of Attention, Parade Rest, or Ceremonial at Ease, the head and eyes are straight forward. Period. Another reason not to do it is, communication. It can be very difficult to nearly impossible to communicate with posted Watch Guards during a memorial service. Communication is crucial during ceremonies and the Watch Commander needs to make eye contact with the posted Guards and those guards need to be aware of what is going on around them. I also highly recommend “unarmed” guards (no rifle, or fire axe).
  • Description: Saluting each other.
  • Why not do it: Casket watch guards salute the flag on the casket, not each other. You look silly standing in front of each other and saluting. Why are you saluting? This situation does not require a salute. You are changing watch and that’s it. There’s no reason to salute each other.
  • Description: Salute, receive the folded flag, give the flag away, salute or execute a fold of the flag, salute, another fold, salute, repeat until all 13 folds and 13 salutes are accomplished. This is the epitome of making something up because of one guy’s ego.
  • Who not do it: Because we only salute when presenting the folded flag, not also when receiving.

The Colors Presentation

  • Description: the rifle guards spin their rifles in between positions or the team moves into a completely unauthorized configuration for a colors presentation.
  • Why not to do it: The Flag Code and a service drill and ceremonies manual/The Honor Guard Manual are the resources required for the color guard to perform its job properly. That’s it. Never add any flamboyant movement or team configuration. There is a reason for the minimal standards that are written in the guidance; less is more. Stick to that.

The Flag Fold “Ceremony”

  • Description: Two team members march to the front of the room with an American flag, they unfold it, open it up fully, and refold it before presenting the flag.
  • When to do it: (with thanks to KM for his input) Military participation in ceremonies that bring discredit to the armed services or exist primarily to raise money. Civilian ceremonies that exploit the military for personal and financial gain would fall under this category as well. There are numerous occasions where individuals will need to fold a flag but the only times that require it to be performed as part of an official ceremony are Retreat and Military Funeral Honors…so if the organization is not doing one of the two, then they need to seriously ask themselves if they should be doing it at all.

If the flag fold is not being conducted for a functional purpose, or mandated by-law then it is inappropriate. What constitutes a “functional purpose”? It would be storing the flag or giving it to another person or organization.

For storing. during an official ceremony, Retreat, simply because you took the flag down for the evening and obviously you have to fold it. Mandated by law: during a military funeral.

In the AF, the presentation of the flag is mandatory for retirees. The presentation is mandatory, not the flag fold. The actual tradition is to present the flag in a shadow box. All the outlandish ceremonies over the last 20-30 years is a recent occurrence.

So to summarize, “flag fold ceremonies” are performed all too often and their impact/meaning waters down the significance of folding the flag.

Public Affairs organizations in all branches strictly control and attempt to prevent this from happening. Unfortunately, volunteers, and even installation honor guard units “approve” and take part in such events without them being vetted through their responsible PA office.

Comments 2

  1. Hello, I am a member of an civil war reenactment group and we have started the ground work to put a colour guard team together. The different from 1861 until today is a broad amount of material to look at to see how we could fit into this space of colour guard. What materials do you suggest we use to start up our team.

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