Formal Casket Watch

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Casket Watch Procedures

Read about the difference in Formal and Informal Casket Watch here.

Here are some DrillMaster Casket Watch procedure videos to help you to get a better understanding.

How an individual died should not reflect on the honors received (suicide). This is different from a Line of Duty Death vs. off-duty or retiree.

From my book, The Honor Guard Manual.

To many in the honor guard world the term casket watch, is unknown. That is unless you are on an LEO, firefighter, or EMS honor guard. These members have known of and performed a casket watch for many years for their fallen. Let’s get into what casket watch is and how it is performed. The minimum for a casket watch is one guard who can informally or formally post at the head of the casket.

There are three parts to first responder casket watch:

  1. Watch Guard Entrance/Initial Post
  2. Watch Guard Change
  3. Watch Guard Final Watch

The members of the casket watch are:

  1. Watch Commander
  2. Watch Guards (these members can be specifically identified, if you choose)

If selected as part of the funeral protocol, two unarmed (armed with a rifle/shotgun/axe is considered inappropriate inside a chapel) honor guard members watch over the casket of the fallen during the viewing or wake. In most cases these members take their positions at the foot and head of the casket at Attention/Stand at Ease. Depending on the duration of the viewing or wake, watch shifts established. If a WC is not present, either of the watch guards will call subdued commands.

Watch Guards: DO NOT bow your heads while posted. This eliminates your ability to receive communication. Read, Making Things “Ceremonialer”

Watch Guard Initial Post

At the beginning of the first watch, two guards and the Watch Commander (WC) enter the room (from either side or the front) where the watch is taking place. For this manual we will assume an entrance from the front. All commands are subdued. No facing movements (except Three-Count About Face) or flanking. (If unarmed, ignore weapon commands.)

  1. The Watch Guards and the Watch Commander enter the room and form up at the back of the chapel at Attention. The WC gives the subdued command, Step, and all three members begin marching toward the casket at Slow Time (60-90 steps per minute).
  2. Within approximately four steps of the casket the WC gives the subdued command  “Haaalt” on the left with another right step and close.
  3. All three automatically salute (with a three-second count up and down).
  4. Upon dropping their salutes, both watch guards then step off and move directly to their positions in the same amount of steps without flanking.
  5. When each guard arrives, they simultaneously execute a Three-Count About Face and remain at Attention.
  6. The WC executes a silent salute, executes a modified Three-Count About Face (“T”, “L” Step) and departs.
  7. The guards now go to Stand at Ease.
Casket watch, honor guard, casket guard, flag-draped casket, military funeral, police funeral, leo funeral, firefighter funeral, ems funeral, death watch
Casket watch, honor guard, casket guard, flag-draped casket, military funeral, police funeral, leo funeral, firefighter funeral, ems funeral, death watch Casket Watch Procedures

Casket Watch Initial Posting: Arrival

Casket watch, honor guard, casket guard, flag-draped casket, military funeral, police funeral, leo funeral, firefighter funeral, ems funeral, death watch
Casket watch, honor guard, casket guard, flag-draped casket, military funeral, police funeral, leo funeral, firefighter funeral, ems funeral, death watch Casket Watch Procedures

Casket Watch Initial Posting: Guards Posting

Casket watch, honor guard, casket guard, flag-draped casket, military funeral, police funeral, leo funeral, firefighter funeral, ems funeral, death watch
Casket watch, honor guard, casket guard, flag-draped casket, military funeral, police funeral, leo funeral, firefighter funeral, ems funeral, death watch Casket Watch Procedures

Casket Watch Initial Posting: Guards and WC turn together, WC departs

Watch Guard Change

The time between changes of the guard is entirely up to you. It is an honor to stand watch over a fallen comrade and as many who would like to should be given the opportunity.

NOTE: When changing Watch Guards, the guards DO NOT salute each other, they are to only salute the flag/deceased.

  1. The Watch Guards and the Watch Commander enter the room and form up at the back of the chapel at Attention. The WC gives the subdued command, Step, and all three members begin marching toward the casket at Slow Time (60-90 steps per minute)
  2. Within approximately four steps of the casket the WC gives the subdued command  “Haaalt” on the left with another right step and close. When the oncoming team halts, the guards at the casket come to Attention.
  3. All three automatically salute (with a three-second count up and down). DO NOT SALUTE EACH OTHER, the salute is for the flag. The guards at the casket do not salute.
  4. Upon dropping their salutes, all four guards exchange places in the same amount of steps without flanking and execute a three-count about face. When all guards reach their spots, the off-going team salutes, and after dropping their salutes, simultaneously execute a modified Three-Count About Face (“T”, “L” Step) and depart.
  5. The newly placed guards now go to Stand at Ease.

Casket Watch Guard Change: Entrance

Casket Watch Guard Change: New Guards Posted

Casket Watch Guard Change: Old Guards Move Inward

Casket Watch Guard Change: Old Guards and WC Salute Flag and Depart

Watch Guard Final Watch

The Final Watch ceremony can be used before the pall bearers enter the room to retrieve the casket for transportation to the burial site.

  1. The WC enters the room and marches to a position approximately six paces from the casket and halts. Guards assume Attention.
  2. The WC renders the slow hand salute.
  3. When the WC drops his salute, the guards come to Attention and posts in front of the WC to each side and all three execute a slow salute a modified Three-Count About Face (“T”, “L” Step) and depart.

Note: An alternative to the above Final Watch change, is to have the final two guards switch to being pallbearers. They then push the casket out of the chapel to the other pallbearers who either join them or replace them.

Final Watch: WC Arrival

Final Watch: Final Salute of the Flag

Final Watch: Departure

Does the Military Perform Casket Watch?

Joint Service Casket Watch in the Rotunda for Pres. George HW Bush

The simple answer: it isn’t tradition for veteran funerals. The exception is in special circumstances like when a President dies and lies in state at the rotunda of the Capitol building. There is a joint service team that stands facing the casket off of each of the four corners. There is also an officer or NCO/CPO who stands at the head of the casket.  The guards stand watch at Attention (they are armed with a rifle- not loaded and stand at Order) for one hour and are then changed. As the guards enter and exit they carry their rifles at Trail Arms, but at an angle, it’s more of a ceremonial look to this standard position. A group of ceremonial guardsmen from each service can rotate through a 24-hour period standing watch every few hours, it’s up to the ranking individual who stands at the head of the casket. There are also two more ceremonial guardsmen standing off to the side ready to move in if something happens to one of the guards.

The Marine Corps and Casket Watch

The Marine Corps does, on occasion, perform this duty with one or two Marines.

All information and images are from The Honor Guard Manual (DrillMaster Press) and are (c) John K. Marshall

Drill Team Technique

To Pin or not to Pin, That is the Question

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It’s all about Purposeful Movement

“You must pin your free hand!” Not necessarily. In this picture below, a still from one of Adam Jeup’s (pronounced “jewp”) training videos, you can see that Adam has purposefully pinned his right arm while executing a rifle toss with his left. There is a reason he did this: “military flavor,” enhanced power to the toss, etc.

Adam could have chosen to place his right arm at any point on the clock (let’s say 9:00) and the move would have been a variation and still looked good if he could keep his right arm steady in that position. He also could have kept it moving from the 6 o’clock position pictured to 12 while executing this movement: another variation- layered body movement under the rifle work. This is difficult stuff to do, though, and is for advanced Drillers who can easily manipulate the rifle and then create variations/other movements.

Pinned Arm

The picture below, from, shows the US Army Drill Team during their performance at the Joint Service Drill Competition probably in 2009. The point of the picture is to show you the free arms of three of the soloists. Do you see how they are in different places? They all should be pinned: it looks cleaner, keeps the “military flavor” theme that is the number one requirement for the service drill teams and also does not take energy away from the toss. unpinned arms

Drill Team Technique

Running Practice for a Competitive Drill Team

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ff785d98-1551-4a5f-a934-bb218127ea61.jpgTraining, Practice and Rehearsal, three different types of well, practice. Here is an article on the Difference Between Practice and Rehearsal and an article on the Difference Between Practice and Training.

Whether you are on a first responder or military honor guard or a JROTC/ROTC drill team, your responsibilities are the same to a point: develop your skills, keep them sharp and, if you can, learn new skills.

How to Run a Competitive Drill Team Practice
You must cover these areas at drill team practice: Inspection, Regulation Drill and Exhibition Drill. There is one other area to cover whether drill team members or other cadets, color team (color guard). If the color team members are also drill team members then, obviously, you will have to have these cadets practice their sequence either on their own or for part of the drill team practice.

Scheduling your time between platoon/flight and squad/element regulation sequences, then moving on to the exhibition sequence and even then working in color team(s) into the mix can be quite a challenge.

Find out the layout of the next competition’s inspection area and work to enter and exit the area with the team.

I remember when I marched on my JROTC team and we had a very small room (on purpose) for the inspection area. We marched 17 members with fourth squad entering first, then third, second, first and me last, the commander. The team formed up at the back of the room with just enough space for the judge to walk behind 4th element and we opened ranks perfectly and then it began. What I do not remember is how we exited. Practice marching into a small area/room by squad/element using “(Column of Files) File from the Right” command.

We did very well my four years on the team because we had dedicated cadets and, what was even more important, we had dedicated instructors.

Regulation Drill
Armed and unarmed platoon/flight and squad/element sequences can take the least amount of practice if you have created a solid foundation of drill and ceremonies in your JROTC program. All cadets should at least be familiar with all stationary drill (standing manual), flanks and columns. Proper execution of each movement is key and then working on alignment and distance should follow.

All team members should read applicable D&C manuals and the Commander(s) should eat, sleep and breathe the regulation sequence command list until it is completely memorized.

The color team is part of regulation drill, but needs very specific attention. The uncase and case parts of the sequence must be accomplished per a mixture of the Army Training Circular and your service’s D&C manual. Yes, a mixture. Click here and read this article for a complete explanation.

First responder honor guards need to practice their procedures for competitions and performances.

Exhibition Drill
This is also where that solid D&C foundation will help, plus personal practice time. Creating an effective routine takes time, teaching it takes time and, finally, practicing it takes time.

All of the parts of a drill competition take a great deal of time and you must find a balance. If your teams practice for two hours every day after school, you will be able to find that balance with relative ease. If you practice Tuesdays and Thursdays for an hour-and-a-half, that balance will be more difficult- but it is doable.

What do I recommend? Start early- even during the summer and teach new cadets all they must know for regulation drill to be perfect in their execution. Then, run through those regulation sequences twice a week to keep them fresh in everyone’s memory, with the rest of the time spent on exhibition.

Lastly, give 100%, 100% of the time. Each time you practice make that practice seem like a performance on the competition field and be professional. If you can do your best with the resources you have and come in 8th place and still know that you gave your all, trophies will never matter.

Is it “Tall or Tap,” “Tall Tap” or What?

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When first falling-in for a flight or platoon formation, after the dressing to the right, the leader of the formation (Drill or Training Instructor or even the Drill Team Commander) might use a term that some seem to be unfamiliar with, “If you are taller than the person in front of you, tap him on the shoulder and move up!”

The formation is given Right Face (facing the element/squad leaders), told  “If you are taller than the person in front of you, tap him on the shoulder and move up!” and then given Right Face again (facing to the rear of the original formation)), told  “If you are taller than the person in front of you, tap him on the shoulder and move up!” and sometimes given Left Face (facing the element/squad leaders again) and told the same thing for the last time or given About Face to resume the original formation.

To abbreviate this relatively long sentence, the term, “Taller-Tap!” is used. It’s not “tall or tap” or “tall tap,” or any other combination of words, just “Taller-Tap!”

Do not give, “If you are shorter than the person…” This sequence is to ensure the flight/platoon is formed up with the tallest people at the front and at the marching right. Note! If you want shorter people in front, then give “Left Face” in place of each “Right Face” above.

Update: From AFMAN 36-2203, Drill and Ceremonies

4.3.2. To size the flight, the flight commander faces the flight to the right (from line to column formation) and has taller personnel (except the guide, element leaders, and flight sergeant) move to the front of the flight according to height. The flight commander then faces the flight to the right (from column to inverted line formation) and again has taller personnel (except the flight sergeant) move to the front of the flight according to height. The flight commander faces the flight back to the left (column formation) and continues this procedure until all members are properly sized.

And now you know. :-)

What is Articulation?

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Articulation is to speak so that one is understood. It is not only about speaking clearly (enunciating words), but also about speaking clearly (using words that are easily understood for your audience). Got that? (photo courtesy of

But what does this have to do with drill? Plenty.

A Driller can step onto the performance floor and not be clear; not articulate well. How is this accomplished if the Driller is not speaking? Through movement. A Driller communicates through movement. The Driller’s language is movement and an audience can ‘read’ that language.

Take a look at the primary image for this article, the unarmed female drill team. The image shows some clarity- see the variation of the position each cadet holds? This kind of variation is not what you want.

Considering the Language of Movement
A written/spoken language is made up of words which create sentences which, hopefully, communicate coherent/articulated ideas or thought. The same goes for a non-verbal language like drill: individual movements (words), body and equipment, create phrases (sentences) which communicate which again, hopefully, communicate coherent/articulated ideas or thought.

Consider each move a Driller makes as a word: facing movements, the positions of the manual of arms and then more advanced “words” would be exhibition-type movement. Movements make up a Driller’s vocabulary.

Youwouldneverwritelikethis,becauseit’sverydifficulttounderstand and not writin al of th letter of all o th wor wil driv yo mad! Not using punctuation (run-on sentences) creates frustration- you never know where the sentence ends and where to take a visual breath or break. Without punctuation, the ‘voice’ of what you are reading is lost: where are the highs and lows? Are these several words a phrase or are there two phrases? Plus there are other problems.

Just like the sentence above where the words are not completed, the most common way to not articulate well is to not complete movements. This is extremely common among Drillers. The Driller is thinking of the next move before the last one is finished and tends to not complete the last move. This has a great deal to do with the performance maturity of the Driller.

The sentence above without spaces between words mirrors the routine that is one long super-move or a routine of several super-moves (this is not a good thing). The audience needs to be able to see a separation between moves- not all moves, you need to find that balance.

Having a Wide Vocabulary
I talk about vocabulary here. And here.

Once you begin to increase your vocabulary, you will find it easier to create new moves. Vocabulary isn’t just about the rifle, sword or arm movements that you know. It’s also very much about marching/step style, head and body movement.

While you need to vary your sentence and paragraph length and not repeat the same words over again, the same goes for a visual performance like military drill. Repetition is an effect killer and so is making your phrasing the same length or same style- like always ending a phrase with a big move (exclamation point).

Variation also applies to the same move executed a little differently.

Clarity and Logic
So, articulation is about clear communication. It’s also about making logical sense: placing moves where they follow others in a logical order and, if you are a soloist are part of a tandem, allowing the rifle to take you around the drill pad and not pushing the rifle around.

What do I mean by allowing the rifle to lead? A good example of “pushing the rifle around” is during your solo routine, executing a facing movement and then drilling of in that direction, facing another direction and doing the same thing. This kind of routine communicates a lack of understanding of routine design.

Marine Corps Color Guard

Color Guard and Team Member Height

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Notice the harness cups, both cups should be at the same height.

For the picture above, the Mirror Present technique is not authorized for Marines in the Fleet not MCJROTC cadets. It is ONLY authorized for the members of Marine Barracks Washington.

Some people try to force the members of a color team into tallest-to-shortest (viewer’s left-to-right) no matter the skill level. That can be a recipe for embarrassment. Especially when the tallest member has the least amount of knowledge.

For all color guards, the height of the team members is a secondary issue. The primary issue is knowledge and experience. Along with knowledge being the primary issue, flag height is right there with it.

Color Guard Height2

Flag Height
All colors must be at the same height as per our military manuals, but since cadets are growing and sometimes vary greatly in height (this also applies to adults), the colors harness cup/socket heights need to be as close as possible in height so that the flagstaffs are as close as possible. In the case of a great height difference, as long as the American flag is higher, everything is fine.

Experience, not height is the goal.

This picture shows a preferable height distribution that is aesthetically pleasing. Shorter right axe/rifle guard, tallest on the American, and everyone else tapers off from there.

Let’s take a look at some color guards and how they navigate the height differences of the cadets.

Notice the flags are at the same height regardless of the height of the team member.

The American flag bearer always needs to be the most knowledgeable member of the team and is always the commander. The second most knowledgeable is the right rifle guard, then the left rifle guard and finally, the other color bearer. Service honor guards go with the most experienced.

jrotc color guard Catabaschools-net

But what about Rank!?
Yes, our military manuals state that an NCO should hold the American flag, but the manuals were written for the military, not cadets or first responders- that does not mean we do not need to follow the manuals, on the contrary, we need to follow them and adapt where needed. Even so, military teams attempt to have the same height in their team members or they at least balance the height differences.


Replacing the Army Spade Finial

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Finial = the topper/ornament of a flagstaff

Flagstaff = the guidon staff carried by a color guard member

Active Duty and Reserve US Navy and US Coast Guard color guards are required to have the battle-ax, also called a Battalion Lance, as their primary finial, according to NTP 13B, Flags, Pennants and Customs (download from the Resources page). The Army spade/spear is not authorized as a flagstaff finial unless performing joint colors work with another service other than the two mentioned above. In that instance, the color guard must have the spade finial, silver in color. The silver spade is mandatory as the finial on the unit guidon.

For NJROTC units, it is up to the Naval Science Instructor whether to switch from the Army spade finial. It is a local purchase. I’m checking into the requirements for Sea Cadets and will update this article as I find the guidance.

For maritime-based first responder agencies with their own color guard, it might be fitting to use the battle-ax finial as an historical reference for the team. Of course, the spade finial is always appropriate for these agencies.

The battle-ax is solid brass and gold in color. Ultimately, this means you would want the upper ferrule (A), screw joint (C), and lower ferrule (D) the same color.

You may want to read the article, All About the Color Guard.

On the Glendale Parade Store website, this finial is listed as the Battalion Lance (Battle Ax): Perfect-Fit Ornament, the SKU is 13GE. It’s made for the dark brown staffs which are not authorized.

The state of Maryland requires the Botonee Cross (pictured at right) as the finial for the MD flag. The Perfect Fit SKU for the Botonee Cross is 83GE. Use the same procedures as below.

Texas law requires a star or spear.

Side note: Traditional Fit Ornaments do not work for this replacement procedure. And please, when you purchase from, please use code T186816 at checkout, it lets them know I sent you, thank you.

How to Attach the New Finial (in this case, the Battle-ax)

First, remove one of the screws holding the spade on the staff. You then need to push the small threaded barrel out with a screwdriver or something similar.

I use a claw hammer to fully extract the rest of the barrel and the other screw.

You will see that the threads on the battle-ax are quite long and I’m not sure why. It doesn’t really seem necessary. The length of the finial’s thread post means that the finial and upper ferrule will not fit as you can see in the pictures below.

Here, you see that It’s just over a half-inch that I need to remove either from the finial thread post or the tip of the staff. I chose to take 3/4 of an inch off of the top of the staff.

I suggest not using the eye screw to attach the battle-ax, that does not present a professional image. Get a screw to attach it, but there are some modifications you must make. Here are two options for screws. I found that either screw worked, but the screw at the bottom fit perfectly.

In order to have the screw fit well, I used my drill to create a counter-sink, which is a concave bevel that allows the screw head to fit flush with the ferrule side. I put an old cloth in my

Here, I used a fine-tooth saw to remove the inside tip of the staff. The one thing that is a slight concern for me is that there is only one hole (I drilled the smaller, starter hole in the picture below for the battle-ax) in the ferrule side for the battle-ax, and for a spade, there are two holes (the larger hole, below) and two screws.

The new ferrule is loose, so I wrapped blue painter’s tape around the base of the tapered part of the staff, pushed the drill bit through the tape, slid the battle-ax on, which fit snugly with the tape, and inserted the screw. The finished product is the large picture at the top of this article.

I tried shaking the battle-ax loose and could not do it. It’s not going anywhere. The wood screw that I used is relatively long so, drilling through the ferrule to make another hole and insert another screw would work to secure it even more, but that hole would have to be at a different level and, as you can see from this last picture, there is very little room and the integrity of the tip of the staff might be jeopardized inserting another screw there. When traveling, I highly suggest that you unscrew the battle-ax finial and place it in a bag to avoid damaging anything.

Organizing a Massing of the Colors Event

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Massed Colors

Massed colors, but not the type outlined in the Army and Marine drill and ceremonies manuals. These manuals specifically state to not have multiple color guards at a ceremony. One is enough. But, that’s for strictly military formations. Click here for information on a massed colors formation.

Massing of the Colors is an event where multiple color guards from multiple organizations, come together to honor the  flag of the United States of America. Color guards from the US military, first responders, cadet organizations and schools, and scouting programs could represent their unit with a color guard. Click here and read information on the order or precedence for the US military and click here for the order of precedence for first responders.

The Ceremony

Each color guard enters and posts in their designated spot on their own command. These commands are only be loud enough for the team to hear, no one wants a one-man or one-color guard show at a massing of the colors.

The “Color Guard Commander” (CGC), who is not the master of ceremonies, posts at an appropriate place so that all of the color guards hear his commands.

The color guards enter with the CGC and remain at Carry/Right Shoulder. Once everyone is posted, the CGC loudly calls, Present (team commanders echo, Present), ARMS! and all teams render the salute for the Anthem.

CGC gives, Order (team commanders echo, Order), ARMS.

CGC then gives, Parade (team commanders echo either, Parade or Stand at), REST! and all go to Parade Rest or Stand at Ease (whichever the team chooses is fine- stick with your training).

For all commands, the CGC faces the color guards, turns around and salutes, or assumes Parade Rest/Ceremonial at Ease. The CGC could be unarmed, but armed with a sword/saber would be appropriate.

At a certain time during the ceremony, everyone could be called to Attention and Present or just Attention and then back to Order.

At the end of the ceremony, the CGC gives Attention, Carry/Right Shoulder, and each color guard leaves independently.

What is Vocabulary?

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Explaining the vocabulary concept to solo exhibition drillers


When speaking in terms of drill and performance, vocabulary deals with the amount of different movements displayed in a routine. For the body there is vocabulary for your feet, the head, arms and hands, and the torso. When armed, vocabulary adds on the manipulation of the piece of equipment (sword/saber, rifle or guidon).

Vocabulary means each individual movement. A set of movements is called a phrase and a phrase can be long or short. When designing a routine you want a good deal of vocabulary and you want long and short phrases. It’s the same with writing: if you have a small vocabulary and use only short sentences or have no variation, the reader is not going to be entertained or informed as well as he or she could be.

Along with vocabulary and long and short phrases, a Driller must use variation. Performing the same move more than once with slight variations increases the displayed vocabulary and keeps the audience active versus the repetition that can bore the audience.

Don’t Sacrifice Excellence

Vocabulary is the “What” of a performance. Excellence is the “How”. To be as effective as possible, you must have a wide vocabulary and a high level of excellence. That being said, you must build that vocabulary and excellence and that is going to take time. There is no overnight success. Hard work, discipline, and a foundational education are key.

DrillMaster's drill team trainingExamples

Let’s look at the presidential honor guard drill teams. In particular, the Silent Drill Platoon (SDP) relies on the least of vocabulary. Their rifle manual is basic movement with slight variations that are specific to the platoon. The entertainment value in this performance is the high level of excellence and also the tricks performed during the company single file front formation where the team’s non-commissioned officer does and “inspection” of two of the team members. The crowd also loves the tradition of the SDP.

The Army and Air Force drill teams have a relatively high vocabulary and the Navy and Coast Guard drill teams have a moderately low vocabulary. Next time when you watch one of these performances see how many different movements or variations of movements you can find.

Appropriate Flag Retirement

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There is a flag fold technique for the first triangle fold called, Cutting the First Stripe. It’s used for an interment flag that has been used for practice and has been folded and refolded so much that it is a bit stretched out, but still good for practice. This technique “cuts” the stripe in half on that first fold, pictured at left. It has nothing to do with taking a knife or scissors to the flag. For more on inappropriately cutting the American flag, click here.


A tattered or faded American Flag is ready for retirement. Retiring an American flag means to burn it. Some people feel that burning a flag, no matter the situation, is still disrespectful. In the flag retirement situation, nothing could be further from the truth.

Burning and Burning

There is a big difference! Americans, who love their country and flag, do not treat that flag with disrespect. We do not just throw it away in the garbage when it is no longer fit for everyday display. There are exceptions to this with historic tattered flags on display across the country. When the flag is no longer suitable for daily display, we take the flag, fold it into a rectangle, and burn it. Some Americans feel the need to burn our country’s flag because they are unable to form a cogent, coherent argument and need to stand on a corner in front of others and push their disrespectful agenda in the face of others by flying a burning American flag.



Side note: I support freedom of speech and some view burning our flag as just that. I will defend the right of people who want to act irresponsibly and burn our flag. I do not like the action and do not support the attempt to get ones point across in this manner, but I do not have to watch and I can treat flags in my charge with respect and care as I hope you will.

The difference? Respect (for the flag and others) has everything to do with it.

Flag Retirement the Wrong Way


If you cut the stars from the stripes, it’s no longer the American flag and you can then feel better about burning it. I guess that is the illogical reasoning behind this act of initial disrespect to the flag to avoid disrespect to the flag. It doesn’t make sense to cut up the American flag unless it is too big to burn safely. Then, cut it into four pieces. But the Scouts cutting up smaller flags, shown here, is here are wholly unnecessary.


Boy and Girl Scouts and many veteran organizations across the country are practicing this disrespect to our flag. I do not know when or where it started, but it needs to stop right now! We need to educate cadets and Scouts as well as our well-meaning veterans. Recently, I read a reply to my comment on a social media account that stated ‘since a flag company says on their website that it is OK, we are going to cut our flags. The flag company does not make the rules. Congress does and that would be the Flag Code.

Flag Retirement, the Correct Way

When to actually cut the flag: The only time to cut the flag and then burn it is when it is to large to safely burn as a whole. Safety is paramount.

At home, make a fire on your grill. Fold your flag into a rectangle (no, it does not represent a casket) and place it on the fire. A flag folded into a triangle is much more difficult to burn due to all of the folded layers.


In a public ceremony, place the representative flag, folded in a triangle on a very hot fire and follow one of the ceremony guidelines linked below. Burn the rest of the flags eligible for retirement in an incinerator or a roaring fire, preferably not in public.

Click here to read the American Legion’s Unserviceable Flag Retirement Ceremony adopted in 1937.

As you can see, no one has ever advocated cutting the canton (blue field) from the stripes. It is extremely disrespectful to do so and it does not matter what some flag-based website has to say as far as a recommendation. Not even this one. I am providing links to professional guidance set forth by groups with the intention of providing the utmost respect.

Associated article: Disrespect to the American Flag