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April 2, 2009: See updated information at the bottom of this article.

February 13, 2009: See updated information at the bottom of this article.

Many readers have been coming to The Daily Flag looking for information about the change in the U.S. Flag Code that permits military veterans not in uniform to render a hand salute. As originally written into Section 595 Section 594 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, the new law (Public Law No. 110-181 of the United States Code) reads:

by striking “all persons present” and all that follows through the end of the section and inserting the following: “all persons present in uniform should render the military salute. Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute. All other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Citizens of other countries present should stand at attention. All such conduct toward the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.”

However, this change in the U.S. Code caused problems, because “saluting the flag” is addressed three times in the U.S. Code, and the legislative change in the law that took place in July 2008 addressed only one— TITLE 4, Chapter 1, Section 9, which is shown above.

It failed to mention Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 4 from the same Chapter 1, which speaks to saluting the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance, and from Title 36—Patriotic and National Observances, Ceremonies, and Organizations, which includes conduct toward the flag during the National Anthem.

Instruction for saluting the the U.S. Flag during the National Anthem is found in a different section of the U.S. Code from where the “Flag Code” is found, and it is sadly, frequently, overlooked.  Many readers comment that they were taught to stand at attention during the National Anthem, but not taught to salute.

Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) sponsored the original legislation in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, and sponsored the amendment that Congress has now passed which clarifies the legislation and brings all three sections of the U.S. Code together to say the same thing —that veterans are now permitted to render a hand salute when the U.S. flag is raised and lowered, passes in review, during the Pledge of Allegiance, and during the playing of the National Anthem.

The amendment: Sponsor of The Veteran’s Salute Provision included in Section 595 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, S. 3001:

-Amends Title 36 of the United States Code to allow service members not in uniform to salute the flag during the National Anthem.

-FY08 Authorization Bill modified Section 9 of Title 4, US Code, to allow members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform to render the military salute during hoisting, lowering, or passing of the flag

-While the change made to US Code Title 4 allowed our veterans and service members not in uniform to salute the flag when the flag is raised, lowered, or passing in review, it did not allow them to salute the flag during the National Anthem

With this amendment, all portions of the US Code are now consistent for veterans and military out of uniform, to salute the flag.

Joe Satko 83 salutes American Flag, Juneau AK

Countless veterans have continued to render a military salute to the flag, from the day they first raised their right hand and took an Oath of Allegiance.

This option which allows veterans to salute the flag with a military-style salute is voluntary. Many veterans are pleased by the change in legislation, and many veterans will continue to salute the flag by holding their hands over their heart. I’m glad the U.S. Code now reflects that choice.


It is my intention to update the tabs on The Daily Flag as soon as possible to reflect these changes in the U.S. Code, but I was waiting until I could copy it precisely (the legal citations, dates, et cetera) from the government web site.

Shown above: Mr. J. Satko, 83, salutes the American flag during the Veteran’s Day ceremony at Centennial Hall. Satko served in World War II as a U.S. Army plane mechanic.

Photograph circa 2005 Juneau, AK, from the Satko Family web site.


I stopped writing new articles for The Daily Flag at the beginning of the year, but I still get many emails asking for information, or comments. I have not stayed on top of this story—veterans and out-of-uniform active-duty personnel saluting the flag—but today I received information that needs to be included.

Gen. James T. Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps issued  ALMAR Number: 052/08 on December 17, 2009, which will clarify saluting for all Marines—past, present, and future.

See also: New salute rule not applicable to Marines.



200 Responses to “Veterans salute the flag—clarifying the change in the U.S. Code”

  1. Ken Jackson says:


    I have a question. I am in the military and I have a flag pole in front of my building on my base that in order to enter the command you have to walk underneath of the National Ensign. I have looked everywhere where it would say to salute or not to salute while in uniform. I couldn’t find anything listed. So I referred to the Navy’s 11 general orders that say “To salute all officers and all colors and standards not cased”. I consider myself a Sentry at all times in the military. Do you have a better reference? I have some questioning whether or not they should be required to salute the Ensign.

  2. Hi Ken. What an interesting question—one that I don’t have an answer for. But let me hunt around in my reference materials, and see if I can find anything that will help clarify, and I will write again. It will take me a day or two.

    Let me say that I am surprised that your building has its “own” flagpole. I was under the impression that military bases generally displayed one large outdoor flag only, to which all honors would be directed, and other flags would be displayed indoors. But, if you salute the flag when you go on-board a ship, and salute the flag again when you leave (a ship being a “command” on its own), then it does not seem superfluous to salute the flag outside of the command building, as you come and go.

    I’ll get back to you. Thanks for writing. Deborah Hendrick

  3. Ed Pounds says:

    There is so many response and answer to go through to see if most questions were answered. As a veteran and from I read of the code, believe me I read the codes. I spend a few months at Arlington National, as a relief for the Old Guard (Army detachment) during 72 -73 at a time when our fallen were coming home. We did not question, any one who gave salute to a fallen soldier, you are honoring him in doing so. As far as saluting an Office, no matter what branch of service or catagory of service (Guard, Reserve) you are saluting the rank of a commissioned office, and that officer is do the respect. The question about saluting a flag out side a building even thought most Post, Base, or Ports have a main flag, if you board a ship while in port you still must salute the flag on the ship as you board, I see no difference if you salute an uncased Raise flag out side a building in which you are going to enter while in uniform. There are so many changes to the Codes, that we are slammed if we do or if we don’t. Who inforces these Code?? NO ONE!!! Veterans as it has been put it is us to how you feel and how you read the Code. I have done a lot of flag retirement service in my past, but recently I have been confronted by Veteran Groups that think they know better. From my time in the service as a veteran and my time with Boy Scouts who do such honors I have done over 75 such retirement service, my questions to them is where is it written or where is the written law or code on the proper way to retire a flag. There are currently 50+ Ceremonies on line, that Boy Scouts, Veteran Groups and such use. The Code does not out line how it should be done other than to be burned and then buried in a dignified manner. Veterans Groups who say it should be done this way or that way need to really read up some of the Code themselves. For this kind of reason I do not join Veterans groups, because not one groups has a set way on doing things. I have read numbers of ways the VFW Halls do things and find that not even the VFW Hall has a set way of retiring Flags. Again I retired Flags while at Arlington, and will continue to instruct the way I was taught until the folks who write the codes can clarify a proper write code that covers such.

    Deborah, THANK YOU for all your hard work, you are doing a great job

    CW-2, D Troop 1st Air Cav

  4. I found this in a Marine training document, which includes instruction for both Navy and Marine Corp personnel. As I see it, the orders to salute “uncased” colors means to salute the flag when it is in motion—when it is being carried by a Color Guard. For flags on stationary poles, the flag is saluted when it is raised in the morning, and saluted again when it lowered at night. Therefor, it would seem that it is not necessary to salute the flag in front of the command building each time you pass it.


    .9 Discuss the procedures for rendering honors and circumstances during which honors are rendered during colors and the National Anthem.
    a. Render honors during “Colors” and to the National Anthem, IF you are neither
    in formation nor in a vehicle, THEN render the prescribed salute. Hold the salute
    until the last note of music is sounded. IF no flag is near, THEN face the music
    and salute. IF you are in formation, THEN salute only on the command, “present
    arms.” IF you are outdoors and uncovered, THEN stand at attention face the
    direction of the flag or music. IF you are indoors, THEN stand at attention face
    the music and/or flag, IF you are in a vehicle, THEN (driver) halt vehicle,
    (passengers and driver) remain seated, at attention do not salute. IF your are
    passing or being passed by an uncased color, which is being paraded, presented,
    or is on formal display, THEN salute at six paces distance and hold the salute for
    six paces beyond or until it has passed your position by six paces. IF you are
    covered, THEN stand or march at attention when passing or being passed by an
    uncased color.

    b. When the flag is raised at morning colors or is lowered at evening colors,
    stand at attention at the first note of the National Anthem or “To the Colors”
    (standard), and render the prescribed salute. If you are engaged in some duty
    which would become a safety hazard or risk to property, do not salute. Usually
    face the flag while saluting, but if your duty requires it, face in another direction.
    When the music sounds “Carry On,” resume regular duties.

    I hope this helps. Thank you for writing.
    Best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  5. Thank you Ed, for writing. This particular article is one that continue to get comments.

    It is interesting to me, that (what we commonly call) The Flag Code leaves a lot of questions unanswered. The retirement of flags is a big one. Obviously, the flag retirement ceremony can be as simple or elaborate as one wants it to be. And a lot of people think that only an organization such as the Boy Scouts, VFW, or the American Legion can conduct a flag retirement ceremony. The fact is, anyone can retire a flag, as long as they do with with honor and respect.( I would like to build a fire pit at my house so I can retire my own flags.)

    I personally dislike retirement ceremonies where the flag is taken apart before it is burned, but lacking specific instructions,I can’t say that it’s the wrong thing to do. And there is a service organization in the northeast, that greets flights of returning military personnel, coming back from overseas. This group gives each milper a embroidered star, cut out of flags that are to be retired. I appreciate the sentiment in doing this, but I think it is very wrong. If a flag is to be retired, then all of the flag needs to be retired. But they didn’t ask for my opinion, either.

    But by far, my biggest complaint that is a violation of the Flag Code is the practice of toting out a huge flag—flat and horizontal as a patriotic ceremony. This is an outright violation of the Flag Code, and it really gets to me. My flag is not a pre-game show, or a half-time show. Then they use a hundred people to hold the flag and make it ripple. Oh, this is so wrong.

    According to the Flag Code, there is only one occasion when the flag is permitted to be displayed flag, or horizontal, or draped—and that is when it is placed on a casket. It is our nation’s greatest sorrow and our greatest honor for those who have served this country—to drape the American flag over their casket. (And to have that singular honor co-opted for “entertainment” is just too much.)

    Ed, I would like to know how the Army retires its flags, if you would like to share that information. Please write to me at Deborah@flagsbay.com

    Thank you again for writing, and best wishes,
    Deborah Hendrick

  6. Ed "Sarge" Hufford says:

    Deborah. You seem to have a good grasp on the flag code and I agree with all you say. My pet peeve is the display of the flag by the President of the US. In almost every case, the American Flag is not posted “on it’s own right” but they seem to think more is better and have several American Flags mixed with other flags (State, Prez flag, etc, etc). In addition, when flown with other countries flags it still should be “on it’s own right” which they seldom seem to do. I guess they’re afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. As far as retiring the flags, each organization seems to have their own style which is not wrong as long as it shows a respectful way of destruction by burning. However, placing a truck load of folded flags in a burn pit is impractical as they will burn for a week. A small ceremony with a group of friends is a good way to honor and destroy a lot of flags. (You can unfold them and they don’t burn as long) It’s still respectful and get’s the job done.
    Ashes should be buried also in a dignified manner.

  7. Thank you for your comments, Mr. Hufford. I do think that it’s important to let people know that they can retire their own flags.

  8. Karl says:


    I’m a veteran — Navy ’64-68 — an am pleased to be able to salute the flag while not in uniform. However, I recall the rule that the head had to be covered when saluting. As a veteran under the new rules do I have to be covered to salute the flag or have the rules changed allowing me to salute without a hat on?

  9. Hi Karl,
    You do not have to be wearing a head cover now, when saluting the flag. On all the occasions where you previously would have saluted in uniform, you may now salute as a civilian—covered or uncovered, indoors or outside, and in civilian clothing. Thank you for writing.
    Best wishes,
    Deborah Hendrick

  10. Jay says:

    The Flag Manual use to say that you did not salute flags on stationary poles other then when the flag is being raised or lowered. There was a change in the last 10 years or so because I can’t find it mentioned in the current Flag Manual nor can I find this specifically discussed in any other current official document so I go with what I used to know as fact.

  11. Carl says:

    I would like to know if I have on a non-military related hat, do I remove that hat and am I still then permitted to salute the flag during the National Anthem?

  12. Carl, it doesn’t matter if you keep your hat on, or take it off. You are permitted to salute covered, or uncovered, indoors or outdoors, and wearing civilian clothing—on all the same occasions where you would have saluted while in uniform. Thank you for writing, Carl.
    Best wishes,
    Deborah Hendrick

  13. Carl says:

    Thank you for your quick reply.

  14. Eddie says:

    Deborah Hendrick Does the same apply to Military Reservist not in uniform, can they still salute the flag indoor or outdoors, covered or not covered?

  15. Eddie, I have never read anything to indicate otherwise. The rules of conduct, personal comportment et cetera are not different for reservists. Unless you are specifically ordered NOT to salute if not in uniform, I would assume that it was ok. Thank you for writing and best wishes. Deborah

  16. Ed "Sarge" Hufford says:

    May I suggest that since the rule is for “veterans”, a reservist has taken basic training and has at least had one day of active duty, that makes him/her a veteran. Under that logic, your response would be correct.

  17. Brian Dugan says:

    I find this all so very interesting. I served from ’69 through ’71 in the Army. I would be proud to salute the flag rather than covering my heart (as I do now). My grandchildren look up to me in awe when we are at parades and the flag passes and I cover my heart, they know, even at their young age, to do likewise. In the future I will salute, with pride, our flag and tell my grandkids why I am doing this.

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  19. Dave Stefano says:

    What is your interpretation of the NAVADMIN and ALMAR messages released in 2009 and 2008, respectively? Both of those messages direct members of the Navy and Marine Corps to only salute when in uniform and covered. As a Navy veteran, am I to follow my Service direction even after retirement, or can I follow the US Code? Thanks in advance.
    Cheers, Dave

  20. Hi Dave. Thank you for writing.
    Readers? What is your answer to Dave’s question?

  21. Sarge says:

    My thoughts are that they are several years old in their interpretation of the regulations. We (Veterans) are allowed to salute the flag. Period. Follow the US code. I have run across several occasions where the USAF doesn’t salute the National Anthem indoors (on active duty). I totally disagree with this but how do you tell the General to salute when he thinks he’s right?
    I seriously doubt that any of them are going to come and chastise you for saluting. I certainly won’t. Set the example, do it!

  22. Rich says:

    If at a ball game, covered with my team cap, do I salute with my cap on when the National Anthem is played? Or do I remove it to salute?

  23. Rich, if you are a veteran, then you can salute with your cover on—even a ball cap. If you a not a veteran, then you need to remove your cap. Thank you for writing, and best wishes, Deborah Hendrick

  24. Rock says:

    I was at an event when an anouncer asked for everyone to stand, remove hats, and honor the flag. They then proceeded to play the country song “Proud to be an American”. I was upset. Is it OK to honor the American Flag with a song other than the Natioanl Anthem?

  25. Rock—I would have been unhappy, too. As Americans, we are sparing with our honors: we honor the National Anthem—by standing and saluting with either a military salute or a heart salute. It doesn’t matter if the flag is there or not (you could be listening to the Anthem over a speaker, and not be where there is a flag in sight), but the honor is to the Anthem. We honor the flag by saluting when it passes by us in a parade (for example), or maybe by standing in a class room—saluting the flag and saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Unlike the National Anthem, the Pledge is always recited with a flag present.

    Those who wrote and codified the Flag Code and the National Anthem Code believed that we as Americans would choose to follow the Code(s) in good faith, without threat or penalty. I believe it was highly improper to be asked to render honors (did people salute?) to the flag without playing the National Anthem or reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I see this happening at baseball games too, where God Bless America is played for the seventh-inning stretch, and people stand and salute. I am very fond of God Bless America and Proud to be An American, and they are splendid patriotic songs, but they are not the National Anthem. As civilians, we render honors to the National Anthem and the flag, and nothing else.

    Thank you for writing. And best wishes, Deborah Hendrick
    P.S. Honoring our war dead, and those who have served us in other ways, it a topic for another discussion. But our saddest and highest honor is to place the flag on the caskets of those who have died. This alone makes me very careful when it comes to respecting the flag and the National Anthem.

  26. Mike Nielson says:

    I had heard and it may be folk lore (still a good story line) that scouts were allowed to salute the flag while in uniform. But that it took an act of congress to allow this to happen.

    they are allowed to salute like the military and official groups like EMS, Law enforcement, and other official uniform wearing groups.

    I am teaching scouts soon and would like the citation of that if it can be found. I am trying to impress upon the young scouts that it is a very special privilige and they need to be respectful by wearing a buttoned-up uniform, with neckerchief and shirt tucked in and not hanging out.

    I would really appreciate if you can find anything regarding this. I have done some searching but not finding any reference to it.

    thanks much,
    Mike Nielson

  27. Sarge says:

    If I may, the flag code does not specify other than veterans. I suggest that if any group that has adopted a hand salute may salute the flag when in uniform. Respect for the flag is the key words. If you intend your salutes to respect the flag, do it. Like Deborah has said many times, there is no penalty for not following the flag code. Out of uniform nobody would know they are Boy Scouts and wouldn’t know why they are saluting so I would discourage that and have them place their right hand over their heart. When they are in uniform people will know that they have been taught the proper respect for the flag. Also, I would teach to have the uniform as complete and buttoned up as possible.
    Just my thoughts as an old retired vet.

  28. Mike Nielson says:

    Right on the money, great comments and thoughts. Thanks very much

  29. Hi Mike, thank you for writing. And thanks also to Sarge, for his good answer, which I endorse.
    Regarding an official act of Congress that would permit Boy Scouts to salute the flag—I believe this is indeed folklore. For two reasons: 1. As an Act of Congress, it would be well-documented and probably printed in the front of the scout’s handbook.
    2. Patriotic and service organizations have always always saluted the flag while in uniform, and they didn’t need permission from Congress.

    No doubt there have been various proclamations through the 100+ years of Scouting, and perhaps one of those proclamations had something to do with saluting, but I don’t know how you’d find out. You might contact a historian a the National office in Irving, Texas.

    I suspect that it has never been harder, trying to convince young boys the value in wearing their uniforms. But wearing the uniform helps remind them of who and what they are. Helping each other, advancing in rank—these are things that help them grow. You might share the story below with the boys. Maybe it will encourage them. It’s true; I knew the young man because he was my son’s first Scoutmaster. By the way, my son is 43 and still carries his Eagle Scout card in his wallet.


    Best wishes, Mike to you and the Scouts.
    Deborah Hendrick

  30. Mike Nielson says:

    Excellent, thanks for the guidance. and also thanks for a great story about your son. I have an Eagle son also and very proud of him. His project took just under 1000 man hours.

    I am a silver beaver and woodbadge and other awards recipient and still involved with teaching adults in scouting. Outdoor skills, wilderness first aid, CPR/AED. I surely do enjoy scouting.

  31. Steve Cinnamon says:

    I noted an article in today’s Omaha World Herald that our local representative is proposing legislation to pass a law with regard to Veterans and the hand salute for the flag. I recall an executive order during Pres. George W Bush’s administration that authorized the hand salute. Are these executive orders rescinded hence needing a law to authorize the Veterans to render the hand salute at events?

  32. Sarge says:

    Steve, I doubt that he’ll be able to make it a law since the hand salute should be part of the Flag Code, which is law but without punishment. It would be interesting to see where he’s going with that. I don’t know about rescinding executive orders but I would think they would have to be intentionally rescinded by the President. Maybe someone out here knows about that better than I do. Not a very good answer but I tried.

  33. Steve, thank you for writing. I found the article you referenced, and the bill corrects an over-sight in previous legislation.

    The previously passed Section 594 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, (Public Law No. 110-181 of the United States Codee) and its subsequent amendments should have taken care of the saluting question. But alas, Congress still missed changing the portion within the Pledge of Allegiance. Presumably, this new bit of legislation takes care of the overlooked section.

    I have long considered this defacto law, and have advised veterans and active duty military personnel not in uniform that they are free to salute the flag under all the same circumstances that they would have saluted while in uniform. Indoors or outside, covered or uncovered. In uniform or not. Bearing in mind of course, Navy and Marine Corp regulations, which continue to hold to their historic tradition against saluting out of uniform regardless of Congress’s actions.

    Thank you Steve, for bringing this to my attention.
    Best wishes,
    Deborah Hendrick

    Flag Code

  34. Mathew Kolesnik says:

    In response to David’s question. When I was in the Army Reserve before joining the Guard I attended a deployment ceremony for a local Army National Guard unit. I was saluted by Guard soldiers while attending(I was a comissioned officer). When I became a Guard officer I was assigned to the state headquarters and worked beside many State Guard officers and soldiers. While I was saluted by many of their enlisted I never received specific instruction about saluting their officers. The short answer is yes, if they are an Army or Air National Guard officer you should salute them regardless of branch or component, because they hold both a state militia and US Army/Air Force reserve commission. Their branch tapes say U.S. Army or U.S. Air Force for a reason. State Guard(those who’s branch tape is the State name or says State Guard) I would say when it doubt salute anyway.

  35. Mathew Kolesnik says:

    I also am happy to be able to render a hand salute during the National Anthem and during Taps at military funerals while in civilian clothes. I have done so recently and will continue to do so. Thanks for your service to all serve/have served. God bless you.

  36. Sarge says:

    This website is a lot of fun and distributes a LOT of great info. My thanks to Deb for her efforts. In the question as to whether to salute an Officer, do it! It’s an old, as in very old, sign of respect for the rank they have earned. It’s like calling me “Sarge”. I earned that and respect those that call me that. Same with an Officer. They earned it (most anyway) and should be afforded that sign of respect. It doesn’t matter what service they are in, they are Officers and deserve that respect. (Not to mention it doesn’t hurt to do it). Another factor, the Flag Code doesn’t provide punishment for doing it or not doing it, but (we get into the Article 15 code here) you can be charged for not respecting your officers. And, let’s not get into that debate.
    Thanks for the time to rant.

  37. Kit says:

    The one issue I need clarified is what to do inside. Currently I salute outside and place my hand on on my heart inside. Thanks for any assistance you can give.

  38. Sarge says:

    Kit. I assume since you salute outside you are a veteran and you may also salute inside. Instances include the National Anthem, Placing or Retiring the Colors, Folding and Presenting a Flag, and other occasions that call for saluting. It’s a short answer but they used to tell me if it doesn’t move, pick it up. If it does, salute it. Hope that answers your question and have a great day.

  39. Kit says:

    I am retired. However, I assumed the rules were like when active duty in uniform; salute outside, at attention inside, although I put my hand on my heart. I have seen some vets salute inside. I guess it is not critical as long as paying proper respect, but I just want to make sure I do it right. Thanks.

  40. Jim Voyles says:

    I am a new reader and Vietnam veteran. What is the basis for your interpretations of the changes to the Code in regard to vets saluting while covered with a civilian cover? Is this any kind of “official” ruling? I am a sports official and if I do this, will I be castigated.

  41. Sarge says:

    Just my humble opinion here. My basis for interpretation is the way I’m reading the changes to the Code. It says vets may salute the flag and at playings of the National Anthem (facing the flag, of course). Period. All others should remove their headgear with their right hand and hold it over their heart. I assume you are talking about a sports arena and whether inside or out, my opinion is you can leave your headgear on and salute if you want. Or, you may remove your headgear and hold the hat over your heart. You’re a vet, tell anyone that wants to castigate you to go look up the code and interpret it for you.
    As far as an “official ruling”, it’s part of the Flag Code. Do you feel out of place standing in an arena by yourself and saluting the flag?

  42. Hi Jim, thank you for writing. Congress passed this change in the Flag Code in January 2008, with a quick amendment thereafter to correct some oversights. This change in the statue now permits all military veterans to salute the flag under the same circumstances and conditions in which they would have saluted as active-duty, uniformed, military personnel. This includes civilian-clothed, active-duty military personnel, too. “Not in uniform” by default means any form of civilian dress, including hats of any kind. This means covered or uncovered, indoors or outside. (The only caveats are those from the top brass in the Navy and Marine Corps, who reminded their veterans that 200+ years of tradition is not undone by Congress.)

    As for your conduct in a sporting venue, that is now your personal decision, and I think it is highly unlikely that anyone would ever say anything negative to you about saluting. But if you feel more comfortable, and if you feel like it is a good example and encouragement to those athletes around you (perhaps they are not adults yet), then you can continue to remove your head cover and hold it in your right hand, over your heart during the National Anthem.

    The Flag Code, found in Title 4 of the U.S. Code, addresses this change in Chapter 9, which I have printed out for you below. Here is a link to the U.S. Code, and it works best to type “Flag Code” in the box at the top so you can see the entire document. http://uscode.house.gov/
    See also the note at the very bottom of my comment.

    §9. Conduct during hoisting, lowering or passing of flag

    During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the flag is passing in a parade or in review, all persons present in uniform should render the military salute. Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute. All other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Citizens of other countries present should stand at attention. All such conduct toward the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.

    (Added Pub. L. 105–225, §2(a), Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1498; Pub. L. 110–181, div. A, title V, §594, Jan. 28, 2008, 122 Stat. 138.)
    Historical and Revision Notes Revised

    Source (U.S. Code) Source (Statutes at Large)
    9 36:177. June 22, 1942, ch. 435, §5, 56 Stat. 380; Dec. 22, 1942, ch. 806, §5, 56 Stat. 1077; July 7, 1976, Pub. L. 94–344, (17), 90 Stat. 812.


    2008-Pub. L. 110–181 substituted “all persons present in uniform should render the military salute. Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute. All other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Citizens of other countries present should stand at attention. All such conduct toward the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.” for “all persons present except those in uniform should face the flag and stand at attention with the right hand over the heart. Those present in uniform should render the military salute. When not in uniform, men should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Aliens should stand at attention. The salute to the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.”

    This change in the law includes conduct during the Pledge of Allegiance, and the National Anthem statue is found here: http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=National+Anthem&f=treesort&fq=true&num=2&hl=true&edition=prelim&granuleId=USC-prelim-title36-section301

    Thanks Jim, I hope this helps.
    Best wishes,
    Deborah Hendrick

  43. steven swieter says:

    Hello, I have a question about U.S. Flag retirement by burning. I’m a Boy Scout leader (Troop 548 Snellville, GA) and we’ve done many Flag retirements over the years. My question: I’ve heard, and we’ve practiced, that after burning, the brass grommetts are retrieved and presented to Veterans or families of Veterans with a solemn thanks for their service and sacrifice. I don’t remember where I heard this and would like to continue but have an understanding of the reason, if in fact accurate. Please help, we’ve just retired 5 flags on Memorial Day and I’d like to proceed. Thanks very much!
    Steve Swieter

  44. Sarge says:

    Steve, I’ve done a lot of research on the American Flag and the Code for it and I don’t believe you will find anything that tells you what to do with the grommets. I seem to remember (what I can at my age) that they should be retrieved and given a dignified burial. That’s what we do with them after we have a ceremony (Am Legion). I don’t see anything wrong with presenting them to a veteran if he or she wants them. One thing to keep in mind is that the flag code does not prescribe any punishment for any violation, therefore; do what you want. Just do it respectfully. Hope that helps.

  45. Steve—I’ve been out of town, and now that I’m home, I’m sick. It will be a few days before I feel up to a longer post, but I will respond. Thanks, Deborah

  46. Thank you for writing, Steve, and your patience. This will be a long response, and I apologize, but it’s important information.

    If you do not have a whole copy of the U.S. Flag Code, I urge you to follow the link I will attach at the bottom of this post, and print out a copy (16 pages). Abridged versions of the Code are handy, but I think everyone needs to read the fine print—the historical notes and dates, proclamations, amendments and findings, et cetera. I believe the Flag Code is a historical document in its own right, and should be honored as such.

    Regarding a flag’s brass grommets, I cannot endorse setting aside and giving away any part of a flag after it has been retired. I know there are some service organizations that cut the stars out of the blue field—of flags that need to be retired—and give them our returning military personnel as a token of honor and respect, but I think it is very wrong. I feel the same way about saving the brass grommets to give away.

    From Section 8 Respect for the Flag it says, “No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America.” In Section 8, (j) reads: No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.

    The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.

    “No part of the flag should ever be used … .” I don’t think that those who wrote and codified the Flag Code could have anticipated every thing we do to the flag, to warn us against doing it. But cutting up the flag, saving parts of it, is disrespectful. Why the stars, why the grommets? If you believe the flag is a living thing—and the Flag Code tells us that it is—then parceling it out must surely be wrong. A lot of old flags come into my hands, on their way to retirement. What if I wanted to cut out the star fields and sew them together for a quilt, or a wall hanging? You would rightly be appalled. But isn’t the least star, the least grommet a part of the whole?

    Continuing in Section 8(k) The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

    In the history of flag manufacturing, the use of brass grommets is fairly recent. Before the advent of brass grommet, flags had an embroidered eye or a rope pocket, all of which would burn up in a fire with the rest of the flag. Generally, the ashes from a retired flag are buried, and I believe the brass should be buried with the ashes.

    It is acceptable however, to bury a flag entirely, without burning it. This method pre-dates the advent of the Flag Code. Of course, the flags of old—made of cotton, wool, or silk, would have quickly decomposed in the earth. Modern flags of nylon or polyester would take much longer to disintegrate in the ground. But there are occasions when a fire would would not be prudent. And of course, any of us can retire a flag, by burning or burial, so long as it is done with respect and honor. If I ever get the patio and fire pit of my dreams, I will retire my own flags, and those that come into my hands.

    In 1984, a protester set fire to an American flag during the Republican Convention in Dallas. Daniel E Walker, who witnessed the event, gathered up the remains of the flag, and gave it proper burial in his back yard. He didn’t want the ashes of this flag to be merely swept up and tossed in a trash can. He was greatly honored for this act, and I hope you will share his story (linked on his name) with your Scouts. And there’s a lot more to the story about this flag than I have mentioned, which the Scouts need to know about, too.

    I know the Boy Scouts have many different kinds of ceremonies for retiring American flags, and I am grateful for their willingness to do that. Some troops take the flag apart completely before burning it, but I think that is very wrong, too, because it violates the personhood of the flag. The Flag Code doesn’t tell us everything we would like to know, thus we must extrapolate as best we can, but the first rule is to show no disrespect to the flag, and I think that means treating it as a whole.

    Link to the entire Flag Code, which includes the most recent updates.

    Thank you again for writing, Steve. I hope this answers your question.
    My best wishes to you and the troop,
    Deborah Hendrick

  47. George Harrivel says:

    As a veteran when a salute the flag, if I am wearing a cap should I remove it or leave it on?

  48. George—It doesn’t matter. You can salute covered or uncovered, indoors or outdoors, in uniform or in civilian clothing. Best wishes, Deborah

  49. George Harrivel says:

    thank you!

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