“You cannot display more than one flag at a ceremony!” That’s one of several urban legends I’ve heard over the years related to me or told directly to me by well meaning people. Well meaning people who don’t know what they are talking about. Apparently, one set already posted and another set formally presented is “too many”.
I know, you are a patriotic American and you know what you know because at some point you were in an armed service, a Scout, or on the school bike patrol. Standards remain the same, but our memories are poor at best. This is why we need to constantly go back to the Flag Code and our military manuals to recheck our facts. Below is a quote from the Flag Code:
TITLE 36, CHAPTER 10, PATRIOTIC CUSTOMS
§175. Position and manner of display
(k) When used on a speaker’s platform, the flag, if displayed flat, should be displayed above and behind the speaker. When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, the flag of the United States of America should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman’s or speaker’s right as he faces the audience. Any other flag so displayed should be placed on the left of the clergyman or speaker or to the right of the audience.
Nothing in the Flag Code states that more than two flags is inappropriate or unauthorized. So let’s look at when and why two or more flags make an appearance in a ceremony.
The Massing of the Colors Event
This could also be known as the “Way Too Many Flags Event” for some. If you have not been to one, this can be a wonderful sight to see: dozens of color guards, all with their flags from all kinds of different organizations gathering together to honor the flag. Read here for more information.
Presenting – Posting – Retrieving
Presenting the Colors. The standard. The “Show-n-Go”. There is nothing wrong with having a set of flags already pre-positioned on the stage (for instance) and, at the cue, having the color guard enter, formally present a second set of colors, and leave with that second set. As a matter of fact, this should be the usual setup. It’s a formal presentation but can be used at an informal situation and still allows everyone to get on with the business of the event.
Posting the Colors. Presenting and then posting the colors should be reserved for a more special occasion and should not be the every-day or possibly even the monthly standard.
Retrieving the Colors. having the color guard come back into the room to retrieve the colors is a black tie affair and should happen maybe once a year. It need to be reserved for a very special occasion.