Folded Flag Salute Protocol

DrillMasterHonor Guard, Instructional, Protocol and Flag 6 Comments

The Salute Fest is what I witnessed by a team of law enforcement officers, pallbearers, standing over the casket of a comrade and folding the American flag. Before picking up the flag, they saluted (this is acceptable). Before the first triangle fold, they saluted. The team then continued to salute for the other 12 triangle folds. It was painful to watch.

Yes, we want to honor our flag and we should. This is why the Flag Code was written and the US military wrote even more guidance. First responders follow either the Army Training Circular or the Marine Corps Order if they want just regulation drill, both downloadable from the Military Manuals section of the Resources page. If they want ceremonial drill, they follow the national standards detailed in The Honor Guard Manual.

Saluting the Uncased Flag

An uncased flag is one that is mounted on a color guard flagstaff and is not cased and also a flag that is not folded into a triangle.

  1. When it is carried, uncased, by a color guard and the team marches past.
  2. When passing, approaching from any direction, a color guard (whether the staffs are at Carry or Order) and the flag is uncased.
  3. When a car with a mounted flag drives past (do not salute a stopped car unless it is occupied).
  4. When a coach (hearse) or caisson carrying a flag-draped casket passes.
  5. When passing a coach (hearse) or caisson carrying a flag-draped casket.
  6. By the oncoming and off-going Casket Watch guards (the guards do not salute each other) who salute the flag-draped casket.
  7. When the flag is raised at Reveille.
  8. When the flag is lowered at Retreat.
  9. By pallbearers just before picking up the casket for transport.*
  10. By pallbearers just before lifting the flag off the casket to fold it.*

*This salute is not rendered by every military service, it is acceptable.

When to Not Salute the Uncased Flag

  1. When passing a flag mounted on a halyard (rope) on an outside permanent flagpole.
  2. When passing a flag mounted on a color guard flagstaff on display indoors.

Saluting the Cased Flag

A color guard flag that is folded (Marine Corps, Navy, & Coast Guard) or furled (wrapped; Army, Air Force, & Space Force) around the staff is then cased and the folded flag (triangle) is also considered cased.

  1. Each time the folded flag is handed off to another.
    • Typically, the flag is folded, handed to or taken by the pallbearer who ensures the flag is presentable (not salutes here),
    • then that pallbearer hands the flag to the senior member present (salute rendered by the pallbearer),
    • and the senior member then presents the folded flag to the next of kin (salute rendered by the senior member).

When to Not Salute the Cased Flag

  1. Before receiving the the folded flag.
  2. When the folded flag is being carried to/from a ceremony.
  3. At Reveille or Retreat.

How do we Salute the Flag?

We stand at Attention and render the hand salute. We do not bend our head down to look at the folded flag, we look straight ahead. The Slow Salute (3 seconds up, 3 second pause, & 3 seconds down) is appropriate for individuals only, not groups (formations). If more than one flag is presented at the same time and all presenters will coordinate their simultaneous Slow Salute, that is appropriate. Those in formation should render the standard salute (one second up and down and only on the commands of, “Present, ARMS” and “Order, ARMS”, respectively).

Comments 6

    1. Post

      Mr. Robinette,

      The ceremonial elements of the honor guard and everyone in uniform in the vicinity remains at the position of Attention during the folding and presentation of the flag. The presenter, no matter who that may be is the only one to tender a hand salute. That’s the prescribed standard.


  1. I have a flag folding question for you. Firstly I want to thank you for the video that you have made and I so much appreciate it. I have watched it numerous times. I work for a funeral home and usually fold alone. Well today that changed, I was asked to help the Amvet commander fold the flag, unfold, refold a folded flag, and I was asked to fold. I have watched him before and he folds the flag differently, to me he folds it upside down or backwrds. It is way backwards of how you fold in your demonstration and the many other videos that I have watched and even to the amvet demonstration card. I had told him when he first asked me that I didn’t fold the flag the way he does.
    We unfolded the flag, which was folded correctly and how I fold them and you. We opened it up, then started to refold. I reached down with my left hand to bring the bottom up to make the offset. He nodded to me that I was wrong. So what he does is fold the flag backwards or if you were on the folding end, you would reach down with your right hand for the first fold, second fold and the open edges would be on my left facing the family. It really through me. Being he is the commander I want to respect what he has been taught and not act like I know only the right way. He folds this way regardless of what end he is on. To me it is just backwards. I can and would compromise and learn his way.
    Is he correct and where would he have learned such a way? Thank you for letting me vent, but I would like your thoughts on this.
    Thank you Sincerely,
    Galen Jones

    1. Post

      The was I fold the flag is the only way to fold it because that’s what the Flag Code says is correct.

      Now, I’m not talking about all the little details I describe in the video that I learned and developed, I’m talking strictly about the canton being in the left hand when the flag is flat. Stars-end folder will always drop the right hand to fold and turn the flag and fly-end folder will always drop the left to fold and turn. There is no other authorized method of folding.

      I’m glad my video is of help to you.


    1. Post

      Hi Top,

      Every American citizen is authorized to have a flag drape their casket (see the article, All About the American Flag). Who folds and presents it is up to the family to decide and arrange.

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