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The “Colors” of Honor - Part II: The Time Honored Legacy

The Color Guard, especially in Law Enforcement, carries on a long tradition of handling the ultimate signal of patriotism, the flag.  Color Guard presents the colors at special events such as, Fourth of July Parade, Swearing-In Ceremonies, and Funerals There are many traditions and rules of procedure to adhere to when “Posting the Colors,” or presenting the flag(s). The presentation demands respect at such formal events. The Flag Code, which formalizes and unifies the traditional ways in which we give respect to the flag, also contains specific instructions on how the flag is not to be used. The Color Guard observes all of the formal traditions around handling ‘the Colors’ especially handling the American Flag:

Proper display of the US flag

There are many rules of etiquette. Here are just a few:

..When flown with flags of states, communities, or societies on separate flag poles which are of the same height and in a straight line, the flag of the United States is always placed in the position of honor.

..The other flags may be smaller but none may be larger.

..No other flag ever should be placed above it.

..The flag of the United States is always the first flag raised and the last to be lowered.

...The Union (white stars on blue background) is placed above the deceased's left shoulder of deceased veterans.

..To place the flag at half staff, hoist it to the peak for an instant and lower it to a position half way between the top and bottom of the staff. The flag is to be raised again to the peak for a moment before it is lowered

..When used to cover a casket, the flag should be placed with the union at the head and over the left shoulder. It should not be lowered into the grave.

Typical Phases of the Color Guard

More than just observing the many rules of handling the flags, military style drills are needed to execute the meticulous ceremony surrounding the actual presentation.There is a distinct order to displaying ‘The Colors’ as taught to the Honor/Color Guards associated with Law Enforcement and the Military. According to the National Fraternal Order of Police, in their manual outlining the guidelines addressing the National Honor Guard Demonstration in Washington, D. C., there is a system to presenting the ‘colors’.


The order “Present Colors” will be given when displaying the colors before an audience. All colors with the exception of the National Color being dipped simultaneously to approximately a forty-five degree angle from the body.


The order “Order Colors” will be given when colors are to be returned to their previous marching position. This position is dependant upon the situation and logistics.


The command “Prepare Colors” designates that the flags will be moved from the position of which they were marched in to immediately in front of the individual flag bearer and over the flag base.  This command is also used when retiring colors from the posted position.


The command “Post Colors” designates the flags to be placed into the bases. Flags will be turned so that the eagle and spears are straightened with the seam of the flag along the back of the pole,


The command “Retire Colors” designates the removing of the flags from their bases

The Color Guard respects fallen and commands admiration in ceremonial functions. They keep a time honored tradition of respect and patriotism alive. Loyalty and discipline make this special guard important to all who serve and inspires reverence in the civilian population.


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