At ceremonies across the country, many local municipalities request a color team from military installations or even first responders. Quite often, music is not available so those gathered recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
Color Guards: In all of the research I’ve accomplished, there are guidelines for departmental/organizational colors from each service’s drill and ceremonies, flag, or protocol manuals: departmental/organizational colors only dip for the National Anthem, service secretary, and Chief of Staff, Commandant, Service Secretary, equal or higher-ranked individual/unit commander.
This means Active, Guard, and Reserve military teams do not dip their service color (JROTC too), but the rifles go to Present. The Pledge isn’t a military salute to the flag, per se, but an announcement of one’s faithfulness to the flag and the nation, and since it is about the flag, she deserves Present Arms from the rifle guards because when outdoors and the Pledge is recited, all military render the hand salute. Please read All About the Color Guard.
Does this apply to first responders (who usually carry their state flag as second) and cadets (who carry their program flag as second)? State flags can dip when the crowd recites the Pledge. You are not in the military – but for cadet organizations that represent a military service, do not dip your JROTC, CAP, Sea Cadets, Young Marines, or Sea Scouts organizational flag.
The Flag Code
4 U.S. Code § 4 – Pledge of allegiance to the flag; manner of delivery
The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag:“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”, should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove any non-religious headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute. Members of the Armed Forces not in uniform and veterans may render the military salute in the manner provided for persons in uniform. (Added Pub. L. 105–225, § 2(a), Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1494; amended Pub. L. 107–293, § 2(a), Nov. 13, 2002, 116 Stat. 2060; Pub. L. 113–66, div. A, title V, § 586, Dec. 26, 2013, 127 Stat. 777.)
State Flags and Individuals
Individuals: indoors, all military in uniform stand at Attention and face the flag (reciting the Pledge is optional when with a large civilian group*). Outdoors, render the hand salute. When out of uniform, members of the military and veterans stand at Attention or (Army and Air Force vets only) salute the flag. Cadets will always recite the Pledge.
*Reason being is that we in the US military took an Oath of Enlistment or Oath of a Commissioned Officer. This oath never expires. We not only pledge our allegiance, but our lives. When in a large group of civilians, it would probably be better to recite the Pledge rather than explain ten times to different people why you stood in silence at Attention (what happens every once in a while at the Olympics with a military athlete standing at Attention only for the anthem).
For teams that carry a state or other flag, other than a military departmental/organizational, dip that flag.
Here is how to do it:
- The announcer says something like, “Ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the presentation [or posting*] of the colors.”
- Color team enters as usual and stops centered in front of the audience.
- The commander of the color team gives the loud command, “Present, ARMS!”
- If the team is military, do not dip your service departmental or organizational color for the Pledge, it is only dipped for the National Anthem.
- State and other colors can dip.
- Guards execute Present.
- The announcer or a designated person steps up to the microphone and says something like, “Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I pledge…”
- The commander of the color team gives the command, “Port, ARMS!” and the color team [posts the colors and then] departs.
*Only post the colors for more ceremonial occasions.
That is it. Color team commanders, please do not order the audience to begin, it is not your place.