The Medal of Honor Flag

DrillMaster Color Guard/Color Team, Instructional 11 Comments

The Medal

Image is courtesy of devildoggraphisc.com

March 25th is Medal of Honor Day. The Medal of Honor (MoH) is awarded to members of the military who perform extraordinary acts in the face of extraordinary danger. Recipients are never referred to as “winners” as in Sergeant Jones won the Medal of Honor. Actually, we in the military do not win any of our awards. They are presented to us for certain accomplishments. The MoH is the only award that comes with a flag.

The Flag

On October 23, 2002, Congress enacted Public Law 107–248, which modified 36 U.S.C. § 903, authorizing a Medal of Honor flag to be presented to each Medal of Honor recipient. When awarded posthumously, the flag is presented to whomever received the Medal of Honor, usually the next of kin (NOK). The Old Guard developed a specific fold for the flag and each living recipient and NOK of deceased recipients received a specially folded MoH flag after its creation. Each recipients is authorized to display it in their home.

Below is the video of two Airmen from the USAF Honor Guard folding the MoH flag with it’s unique fold that was developed by the US Army Old Guard. The video was directed by a USAF Ceremonial Guardsman friend of mine.

Members of the USAF Honor Guard perform the MoH flag fold

The flag is based on a concept by retired Army Special Forces First Sergeant Bill Kendall (deceased, 2013) of Jefferson, Iowa, who in 2001, designed a flag to honor Medal of Honor recipient Captain Darrell Lindsey, a B-26 pilot also from Jefferson who was killed in action during World War II. Kendall’s design of a light blue field emblazoned with 13 white stars was nearly identical to that of Sarah LeClerc’s of the Army’s Institute of Heraldry, which was ultimately accepted as the official flag. Kendall’s version included the words “Medal of Honor”. The pattern was authorized by President Eisenhower. The color of the field and the 13 white stars, arranged in three chevrons, consisting of two chevrons of five stars and one chevron of three stars, comes from the neck ribbon of the Medal of Honor.

The folding of the MoH flag is special and only accomplished once before it is presented to the recipient. The flag is never flown on a halyard and never carried/paraded (except at the funeral of the recipient). This flag is protected under the Stolen Valor Act. It is for the explicit use of MoH recipients and their families. While the flag was originally designed to be a perfectly square 3’x3′, it is 3’x4′, no other size is authorized.

AR 840-10, Section VI (June 2017)

3–54. Authorization
This flag is presented to each person to whom a Medal of Honor is awarded at the same time as the presentation of the medal, or as expeditiously as possible to each living recipient who has not already received a flag. In the case of a posthumous presentation of the medal, the flag is presented to the person to whom the medal is presented. (10 USC 3755) The flag will also be awarded upon written request to the Military Awards Branch at the U.S. Army Human Resources Command (AR 600–8–22) to the primary next of kin of deceased Medal of Honor recipients (Public Law 109–364, Section 555).

3–55. Display
a. The Medal of Honor flag is a ceremonial flag for indoor use and is considered a personal flag that recipients may display in their home or office.
b. The Medal of Honor flag may be displayed publicly when the individual is being honored at an official military ceremony or the individual is in attendance on the reviewing stand in an official ceremony. When displayed, the flagstaff will be 8 feet tall but shall not be higher than the U.S. flag when displayed at the same time.
c. When the flag is displayed with the flag of the United States, the U.S. flag will hold the position of superior prominence and the position of honor on the right. The Medal of Honor flag will be placed to the left of the U.S. flag. When viewed from an audience the U.S. flag will be on the left and the Medal of Honor flag will be on the right.
d. The flag should always be displayed in an attractive, dignified, and secure manner.

Personal and Positional Colors

Senior Enlisted Adviser to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, SEAC, positional color

A personal/positional color represents the office that an individual holds while in the military (general/admiral, Chief of Staff, CMSgt of the USAF, etc.) or serving in a senior executive service position for the military (Secretary of the Navy, etc.). Only Generals and Admirals are presented their flag upon retirement for display in their homes. A personal (not positional) color can also represent being a prisoner of war (POW/MIA) and being a recipient of the MoH.

Multiple PCs representing the deceased can be carried at a military funeral. As an example, a general’s flag, the MoH flag, and then the POW/MIA flag could all be carried, in that order, as personal colors for the deceased.

The USAF Honor Guard at Arlington National Cemetery

The following is from a post I made on Instagram. The POW and MoH flags are NEVER paraded. They are only carried as personal colors for a funeral. In the photo the two PCs are out of order. Why are these flags out of order? The POW/MIA flag must go to the left of the MoH and all personal colors even if the day of burial was one of the six days where the POW takes precedence.

*Veterans groups, please don’t get any ideas about carrying the MoH flag to celebrate this special day.”

What do you think happened within hours of my posting about the MoH flag? This is from DeVaughn Simper, Vexillologist:

“Surprisingly, I received many messages asking, 1) Where can they get the MoH flag and, 2) When can they fly it or carry it in a parade.”

MoH-Related Flags

There is only one official, authorized Medal of Honor flag that is issued to recipients of the medal. The two other flags related to the MoH and the MoH flag.

Seal of the CMoH Society

The Congressional Medal of Honor Society has its seal on a flag with a light blue background. This flag is also not for sale to the public and should not be carried just because.

The MoH Society flag

The MoH Recipient Grave Marker can be purchased at reputable flag makers like Colonial Flag. They are placed at the headstone of a recipient of the MoH.

The MoH Recipient Grave Marker

Dear Veterans,

General and Admiral flags are never carried in a color guard and the POW/MIA flag has had its specialness stripped from it by flying it ubiquitously by mandate and the MoH flag, by law, is NOT for sale or use by anyone who is not an MoH recipient or one of their NOK.

Please read this carefully:
It is illegal to own a Medal of Honor flag if you did not receive it or are a deceased recipient’s NOK.

A military color guard is already special. Please stop trying to add more flags or step styles, or anything else to make it “specialer”. For regulation drill applications, please read and follow:

  • Army Training Circular 3-12.5, Drill and Ceremonies, and Army Regulation 840-10, Flags, Guidons, etc. (available here)

Or

  • Marine Corps Order 5060.20, Drill and Ceremonies, and Marine Corps Order 10520.3, Flag Manual (available here)

Or, for ceremonial drill applications:

I’m not recommending the USAF manuals because AFMAN 36-2203 relies on the MCO for color guard rifle work. Might as well go directly to the source.

I very much appreciated working with Vexillologist DeVaughn Simper of Colonial Flag on this article.

Comments 11

  1. I work the Texas Panhandle War Memorial. Is there any protocol for wanting to display a Medal of Honor flag in honor of the seven recipients from are area. We have one wall dedicated to those seven. And example of one of the honorees is Cpl Thomas Creek from Amarillo

    1. Post
      Author

      The MoH flag is not permanently displayed anywhere at all. It is only for individual recipients.
      The only time the flag would be displayed at the memorial is if there was a ceremony and a recipient was there to speak.

  2. Drill Master:

    Hi, thank you for this article. I still have a question and hoped you could help!

    I received the Medal of Honor flag today, and have a question about displaying it.

    My father, Capt Steven L Bennett, was killed in action on 29 June 1972. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. I am his next of kin.

    My question is related to the displaying of the flag.

    I have a 4′ soldier, that stands inside at the front door, that holds an American Flag on a flag pole. If I were to purchase another soldier flag holder, could this flag be put on a flagpole inside next to the other one?
    If not, what are some of the Crested [DM- creative?] ways to display the flag in my home?

    Thank you very much!

    As the NOK of a posthumous recipient, can the MoH flag be displayed while I am speaking about my Father? I speak fairly regularly, and take the Moh with me to allow guests to see it. Am I able to take the flag, as well?

    This is all very interesting. Thank you!

    Angela
    Daughter of Capt. Steven L Bennett

    1. Post
      Author

      Mrs. Bennett-Engele,

      It is my pleasure to answer your questions, I put both of your comments into one post, I hope you don’t mind.

      Before I begin with answers, here is the MoH section from Army Regulation 840-10 (2017) in between the “+” signs. I’ve highlighted some information for you.
      +++++++++++++++++++++++
      3–54. Authorization
      This flag is presented to each person to whom a Medal of Honor is awarded at the same time as the presentation of the medal, or as expeditiously as possible to each living recipient who has not already received a flag. In the case of a posthumous presentation of the medal, the flag is presented to the person to whom the medal is presented. (10 USC 3755) The flag will also be awarded upon written request to the Military Awards Branch at the U.S. Army Human Resources Command (AR 600–8–22) to the primary next of kin of deceased Medal of Honor recipients (Public Law 109–364, Section 555).

      3–55. Display
      a. The Medal of Honor flag is a ceremonial flag for indoor use and is considered a personal flag that recipients may display in their home or office.
      b. The Medal of Honor flag may be displayed publicly when the individual is being honored at an official military ceremony or the individual is in attendance on the reviewing stand in an official ceremony. If the flag is displayed on a flagstaff, the flagstaff will be 8 feet tall, but shall not be higher than the U.S. flag if displayed at the same time.
      c. When the flag is displayed with the flag of the United States, the U.S. flag will hold the position of superior prominence and the position of honor on the right. The Medal of Honor flag will be placed to the left of the U.S. flag. When viewed from an audience the U.S. flag will be on the left and the Medal of Honor flag will be on the right.
      d. The flag should always be displayed in an attractive, dignified, and secure manner.
      +++++++++++++++++++++++
      Can you take the flag with you when speaking about your father? It seems the language of the AR would indicate that you may display the flag when speaking about your father and his being awarded the MoH.

      When displaying the MoH flag, the American flag should be on the same length staff and both flags should be of similar size, the MoH flag must not be larger. The flagstaff should be a light ash wood guidon staff with silver ferrules, middle screw joint, and flat Army spearhead finial.

      Creative is not a word I would use to display the flag. I would not display the flags near your entryway. There is a possibility of both flags being damaged (caught on something, ripped, stained, etc.). A home office or special part of the house (corner of the living room) is much more suitable for an honorable display.

      I suggest the following:

      Gold colored floor stand:
      Gold colored floor Stand Adapter: (this is necessary to ensure the staffs remain vertical)
      Eight-foot Flagstaff: (must have silver hardware)

      I hope this helps. If you have any more questions, please ask and I will do my best to provide you the best answer I can.

      DM

    2. Post
      Author

      Mrs. Bennett-Engele,

      I wanted to add what my friend, vexillologist, DeVaughn Simper, adds:

      I would have the flag framed with an acid-free backing and UV filtering glass for preservation. I would highly recommend a hard-sided protective case when transporting to a speaking engagement. Those flags are rayon banner material and are easily scratched. Every little scratch will show and will eventually look permanently wrinkled.

  3. How does a NOK request a Medal of Honor flag for a deceased MOH recipient? The Marine was KIA in Korea in 1952 many years before the flag was created and then the authority to provide the flags was made in 2006. Is there a form to use that is different from Standard form 180?

    1. Post
      Author

      Mr. Slagle,

      It does not matter when the individual died. As long as the medal was awarded, the NOK is authorized to receive the flag. The only thing I can find is information from Army Regulation 840-10.

      3 – 54. Authorization
      This flag is presented to each person to whom a Medal of Honor is awarded at the same time as the presentation of the medal, or as expeditiously as possible to each living recipient who has not already received a flag. In the case of a posthumous presentation of the medal, the flag is presented to the person to whom the medal is presented. (10 USC 3755) The flag will also be awarded upon written request to the Military Awards Branch at the U.S. Army Human Resources Command (AR 600 – 8 – 22) to the primary next of kin of deceased Medal of Honor recipients (Public Law 109 – 364, Section 555).

      DM

  4. Dear Drillmaster,

    The Medal of Honor Society has honored the City of Boston and the Boston Police Department by holding their annual conventions in our city at least three times in recent years. During at least two of those visits, the MoH society recipients who were present visited the Silver Shield Athletic Association and enjoyed the facilities and a repast with many BPD officers. During the last visit, they presented the SSAA with the great honor of a Medal of Honor Society flag. Numerous photos were taken with MoH recipients and BPD officers. The SSAA, in the wake of the pandemic, is closing its doors, and has offered to donate this MoH flag for indoor display to the union representing Boston Police Patrol Officers, the BPPA, located at 295 Freeport St. in Dorchester, Mass. 02122. My question: Is this acceptable? We would display it in accordance with the folding instructions previously displayed, inside of a protected glass display case along with photos of the MoH recipients and an official MoH book containing many of the autographs of those who attended these events in Boston. Obviously, we would be most honored to have this treasured flag, as it literally was presented from these American heroes to their host Boston Police Officers as a symbol of thanks and affection. Please advise…

    1. Post
      Author

      Mr. Carnell,

      Thank you very much for your sincere question. I appreciate your intent of proper display.

      After carefully reading your question, what you have described is within the MoH flag display protocol. The continued display of the folded flag in a glass case along with the associated items is an honorable display.

      You did seem to use MoH Society flag and MoH flag interchangeably. Either can be displayed. From a preservation standpoint, folded and in the glass case is most appropriate.

      Vexillologist DeVaughn Simper weighed in on this. http://www.colonialflag.com

      DM

  5. We have in our cemetery a MOH recipient who has the MOH flag pole at his grave site, but we our in need of a MOH flag to replace the one there, I have notice that the new MOH seems different then the one we have had in the past, has this flag change and if so do we use the new image one that is out now?

    Each year on MOH day we replace this flag with a new one and have a ceremony for MOH day. It has been our honor to do this, as members of Post 379 VFW funeral and honor guard team.

    1. Post
      Author

      Ms. Gilliland,

      I have added a section to my article above to help explain what flag is authorized for general, public display and that would be the MoH Recipient Grave Marker. That is the only authorized flag to place at the grave. You cannot use the official MoH flag.

      If you have further questions and for your flag needs, please speak with the great people at http://www.colonialflag.com.

      DM

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