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History of the American Flag   How to Correctly Fold the Flag   Flag Etiquette   Saluting

Flag ceremonies provide an opportunity to show respect for the national emblem in a formal way. Often used to open civic and governmental events, such as city council meetings or Memorial Day rallies, these ceremonies are also a key tradition among the VFW.

A flag ceremony can involve either the unfolding and raising of a flag or the lowering and folding of a flag. If the VFW Post has a color guard, it should consist of a flag bearer and an even number of guards, typically four or six, in addition to the caller who runs the ceremony.  The size of the Color Guard should depend on how many flags will be in the ceremony for raising or lowering the flag for unfolding or folding, to make sure no flag touches the ground.

Items Needed for a Flag Ceremony

•American flag
•State, organization, scout or military service flags (optional)
•Caller (ceremony leader)
•Color bearer for each flag used
•2 to 4 color guards
•Microphone (if gathering is large)
•Printed caller instructions
•Patriotic music or poetry (optional)
•"Taps" recording or live performance (optional)

1 Decide who participates. Choose a caller, a color bearer for each flag, and two to four color guards.

2 Choose a patriotic song or poem to sing or recite. It's appropriate, but not necessary.

3 Inspect the flag. If it's in poor condition -- with holes, tears or stains -- retire it and find another to use. Your local Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts council can help.

4 Decide where to post the colors. The American flag should fly in the center, or to the right of any other flags, and should fly highest.

5 Place everyone in position with the flags. The caller stands near the flagpole or stand. The color guard stands in the rear of the area, forming a double line behind the U.S. flag bearer.

Caller Commands: Opening

1 Say to the audience, "Please rise for the presentation of the colors."

2 Say, "Please remove any hats that are not part of a scout or military uniform."

3 Say (if it's a VFW Ceremony), "Attention." This signals anyone in uniform to salute.

4 Say, "Color guard attention."

5 Say, "Color guard, advance." The color guard should walk slowly to the flagpole or stand.

6 Say, "Color guard, post the colors." The color bearer raises the flag or places it in the stand.

7 Say, "Color Guard, honor your colors." The color guard salutes, or if not in uniform, they place their hands over their hearts if civilians, but Veterans may salute.

8 Address the audience: "Please place your right hand over your heart and join me in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic, for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

9 Say, "At Ease" This is a traditional signal to lower your hands.

10 Say, "Color guard dismissed." The color guard walks to the back of the area.

11 Say, "You may be seated."

Caller Commands: Closing

1 Say, "Please rise for the retrieval of the colors."

2 Say (if it's a scout meeting), "Scout attention."

3 Say, "Color guard attention."

4 Say, "Color guard approach." The color guard walks to the flag area. Play a recorded or live version of "Taps" if you wish.

5 Say, "Color guard, honor your colors." The color guard salutes, or they place their hands over their hearts.

6 Say, "Color guard, retrieve the colors." The color bearers remove or lower the flags.

7 Say, "Color guard dismissed." The color guard carries the flags to a rest or storage area, ending the ceremony.

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