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.
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.
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)
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).
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
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 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.”
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.
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 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.
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)
- 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.