Can Any Event Have a Colors Presentation?

DrillMasterColor Guard, Color Guard/Color Team, Honor Guard Training, Protocol and Flag 6 Comments

Can anyone request a colors presentation for any event? Must the event be formal and military only? Just a short time ago, I received a message through my website asking if an organization could have a color guard present the colors for their annual fundraising gala.

The Message

The Organization of location Chapter Number is a DOD Veterans Service Organization. We have had galas where a color guard posted the colors. It has been brought to our attention that we should not be presenting the colors because our fundraising gala is not a formal military event. What is the correct protocol to present the colors at our event?

My Response

Whenever I receive questions like this through my website or social media, I envision one of two situations: 1) someone sincerely came to you wondering if protocol allows a colors presentation or, 2) a know-it-all barked at and belittled you. I very much hope it was the former and truly appreciate those who want to ensure proper flag and color guard protocol is followed.

Whoever said you should not have a colors presentation is misinformed. Anyone at just about any occasion may present the colors. There is no restriction on presenting the colors for an event, marathons, car races, school board meetings, city or county council meetings, and even horse riding competitions have colors presentations, none of which are a “formal military event”.

Colors Presentation at Golf Tournament – how much less of a “formal event” can we get?

If you wished, you could invite the Boy Scouts, a local veterans group, police or fire department honor guard or Explorers, Sea Cadets, Civil Air Patrol, Young Marines, ROTC, JROTC, or local military color guard to present the colors for your event. Your fundraising gala is just fine for a colors presentation. I suggest that you have a US and state flags already preposted before your event and then the color guard can enter to formally present, Star-Spangled Banner (played or sung), and then the team departs. Simple.

Presenting, Posting, and Retrieving

When it comes to presenting and then posting the colors (placing the staffs in stands), the event must be formal (sit-down evening meal- black tie). For retrieving/retiring the colors, the event should be even more formal (very formal- white tie). Depending on your location, posting could be limited to once a month or fewer times. Retrieving the colors would be at a yearly event. Why? Because posting the colors and retrieving the colors are supposed to be uncommon, special occasions. The more common posting the colors becomes, the danger of the ceremony becoming less special looms ever closer.

I mentioned location as a factor above and I will explain what I mean by that. The Presidential service honor guard units in and around Washington DC are presenting and posting the colors several times a day for informal, formal, and very formal events. The same goes for some National Guard teams around state capitols. The farther you go from these political centers, the less formal events become on a regular basis. It just depends.

The Show-N-Go

The Show-n-Go is the most common, or at least, should be the most common presentation technique used by a color guard. This technique entails a pre-posted set of colors already displayed. The color guard then enters the room, marches up to centered on the audience, formally presents the colors, remains for the Star-Spangled Banner, and departs. No posting of the colors.

Why would not posting the colors be a preferred method? Several reasons: (1) Using another organization’s flags is inappropriate, (2) only presenting requires the least amount of training for the team when honor guards are Active Duty, National Guard, and Reserve ceremonial units are Congressionally mandated for Military Funeral Honors first with everything else taking a back seat, and (3) not every event is formal enough for posting.

Usually, the Protocol office has a complete set of flags and preposts them. The BHG then presents their set. BHG teams should have at least two sets of colors for every occasion that is usual to their particular location.

But Only One American Flag is Authorized at Ceremonies!

There is no “one American flag only” rule. It’s a myth. If this rule existed, every time the President speaks, his protocol team that sets up multiple US and presidential seal flags, is breaking the rules. Not to mention a sports stadium with a large flag on a tall pole and then a color guard on the field. I’m sure there are many more examples.

Having only one flag at an event was the personal preference of General Douglas McArthur and the knowledge of that standard being elusive and yet “somewhere” has existed ever since.

Now, the way some politicians and others alternate the US flag with another flag to make the “Media Wall Flag Display” is inappropriate because it puts the US in an inferior position.

The next two images show flags displayed properly.

Example of correct protocol for flag display
Example of correct protocol for flag display

In the image directly below, you can see different finials (flagstaff topper) and different length staffs. That makes three protocol issues in one display.

Inappropriate flag display

In this last image, a still from a video, there is one more American flag off to the left that you can barely see. The display starts off correctly, but the Second and third American flags are in the inferior position.

Inappropriate flag display

Politics and other Flags

US military and cadets in uniform cannot present colors at a political rally or any event that would imply endorsement of a candidate or party.

See also this article about using other organization’s flags. No one in uniform is authorized to carry unofficial flags.

Comments 6

  1. Hi DM,

    I believe you overlooked that the Girl Scouts of the United States are also designated to not only present the colors but also to retire flags. They have been asked to do this even before the 1930s.

    Thank you,

    1. Post

      I appreciate the input, but it’s not oversight. Scouting initially developed standards before most flag protocol was established. With that protocol that is now firmly established being stated above. Boy and Girl Scouts have traditionally retired the colors after every meeting, an internal organizational standard, does not equate with retiring the colors at an event where you were requested to present or post the colors. Not every meeting or ceremony requires posint or retrieiving the colors as it would not be appropriate.

  2. I attended a Veterans Day event today at a Middle school. Presentation of the colors was done by the high school JROTC honor guard.
    The two flags that were carried to the front were covered in blue cases.
    The pledge was given and the anthem was played all while the flags were held with covers on them. That doesn’t seem right! Any ideas about this procedure?

    1. Post

      Ms. Bernth,

      Thank you for your question. This is interesting because I can say, “Oh, it happened again.”
      I’ll tell you the story of the other time I know of this happening and it might shed light on the story you have related here.

      I need to preface this story with the following statement. This instance is not the cadets’ fault, it’s the fault of the JROTC instructor. Last Veterans Day an AFJROTC color guard arrived a bit late to a ceremony, about 15 minutes prior. Usually, teams arrive at least an hour prior to show time. When rehearsing colors are most often cased (the blue cases you saw that covers the rolled up flag material) and the team goes through the motions of the presentation (and posting sequence) to get a feel for where the best positions are to march and stand and to see the best approach and departure. The team in this story lined up in full uniform and all equipment in their hands with cased colors. They fell into formation and as soon as they did the people at the ceremony thought they were ready to go and the ceremony began with the cadets initially unaware but resolved to go ahead with the presentation all the while knowing the colors were cased. There was nothing the cadets could do. There was much that the instructor could have done, however.

      It’s quite possible this scenario happened again. This didn’t happen to be in Utah, did it?


  3. I am assisting a singing group in a fundraising event to send a chorus to the 80th Anniversary of Normandy next year. We are holding a fundraising concert in March 2024 to benefit the Normandy Freedom Chorus and help pay their expenses. Proceeds will also be shared with the local Honor Flight Kern County.

    In Honor Of Those Who Served is our theme and we plan to recognize local vets and currently serving military in our area. Our program has a patriotic selection of songs included – Armed Forces Medly, Star Spangled Banner and Star and Stripes.

    I would like to have a ceremony to present the flags at the beginning of our show and open with the Star Spangled Banner. Is it proper to do so and position the flags to the sides of the stage? With American flag to the left of course, along with the flags of the armed forces.

    I understand that there is proper music to play during the presentation. Might I use a drum line instead? Nothing is more moving than a drum march? If this is allowed, do the flags preceed the drumline or the reverse. There is room to stage the drumline in front of the stage while the flag bearers split and go up steps to place the flags on the stage. Then the chorus would sing the SSB.

    Proving all of this appropriate, do the flags need to be formally removed at the end of the show? Again, with possible drum line participation.

    I’m wanting to be respectful and aware of protocol. Your help with this is greatly appreciated.

    Thank you so much for all you do.

    1. Post

      Ms. Kileen,

      I am happy to continue to serve our great nation and provide as much guidance as possible.

      For your concert, it is most appropriate to present the colors, but not to post them in stands. Posting the colors is for a more formal event/ceremony. I suggest that you have a complete set of colors on the stage: on stage right, the US and state flags. On stage left, the 6 service flags. The color guard can come in and stop centered on the audience, formally present the colors (see below), and then depart. This is called a show-n-go.

      Presenting just the US and state is perfectly acceptable by a veteran’s group. Any military team will have to have a military departmental or organizational flag. The POW/MIA flag is not appropriate.

      If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask, I just sent you an email to make it easier.

      By the way, I’ll see you in Normandy next year.


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