There is a very strange story about a line of flags and members of the military and veterans not being authorized to walk in between them. Most of this is a load of fertilizer that is quite deep.
It Goes Something like This
When you place two or more American flags in a line, you are not supposed to walk in between them. It is an actual RULE in the military. With flags AND with servicemen in line formation. You don’t ‘cut’ through lines of military or lines of flags. It’s called cutting colors. There is a poem about the space between two flags representing the graves of soldiers who died defending freedom. It’s not exactly common knowledge with the general public, but it’s common knowledge with military members.
When you place two or more American flags in a line, you are not supposed to walk in between them. It is an actual RULE in the military.
No it’s not! This “rule” doesn’t even make sense. There is no such rule “in the military” or anywhere else for that matter.
It’s not exactly common knowledge with the general public, but it’s common knowledge with military members.
Again, no, it’s not. It’s not common knowledge for anyone because it simply is not true at all.
There is a poem about the space between two flags representing the graves of military members who died defending freedom.
We don’t create standards from poems, just to let you know. The poem is known only to members of a certain veterans group. This group, of which I’ve been a member since just after retirement from the USAF (’05), has created a tradition (not a rule) for the organization that does not apply to anyone else on the face of the earth. To force this tradition on anyone else is inappropriate at best. This tradition is about walking between the American flag and the organization’s flag. That’s it, nothing else.
Cutting a Formation
For any military formation, we do not walk between squads/elements except during an inspection. We do not walk between ranks unless in a training scenario. In larger formations we do not walk between platoons, companies, or battalions. Again, a training scenario would be different, but only the trainers cut through any and all lines.
Below is an image from TC 3-21.5, the Army’s drill and ceremonies manual. It is an illustration of a brigade in line formation with battalions in mass formation. You can see that the color guard is in the center. No one, and I mean NO ONE, walks between battalions, the color guard, commanders, or parade staff. Anyone who needs to move from one side to the other, walks behind or beside. You don’t even walk in front. This is the
For a color guard, we do not walk between the formation members whether there is one or more ranks, a massed color guard. For a large states and territories flag formation (line or column), we do not walk between members, no matter how far apart the members are spaced.
We also, as previously stated, do not walk between the color guard and any formation with which the color guard is associated.
Lastly, we do not walk in front of a formation, opting to move behind it if at all possible. All of these unwritten rules are what I call Formation Protocol.
Really Cutting the Colors
Scouts cutting the flag is a tradition developed by the founder of scouting. That was before the Flag Code was developed and it needs to stop immediately. More on that in Appropriate Flag Retirement.
“Cutting” the First Stripe
As far as “cutting the colors”, for flags that have been used for training purposes, they become stretched out considerably over time and for the first triangle fold we need to Cut the First Stripe. This is the ONLY reference to any kind of cutting the colors that is appropriate except when retiring a huge flag (cut into large pieces for shredding or burning for safety reasons.
Below, you can see how a stretched flag can have the first stripe, the red stripe, “cut” on the first fold. This is called Cutting the First Stripe and is only necessary with the stretched flag used again and again for training. In the middle you can see what some erroneously call cutting the first stripe, when it is actually cutting the second fold. Cutting either the stripe or fold is not necessary for a new interment flag. On the right, you see the second fold without the “cut”.
Display Your Flags!
If you are going to place flags in an area for some sort of patriotic display, do it! We veterans appreciate these displays and being able to walk through the flags. It’s a meaningful reminder to us and others that some of our brothers- and sister-in-arms never made it home or made it home be means of a casket.
Multiple American flag displays can be so beneficial. They can raise awareness, honor a day or an event, and even raise funds. For the best information on how you can host a flag display, Healing Field.