Archive for the ‘Protocol Q&A’ Category

My company has a single flagpole in front of its building.  Can we fly our company flag alone, or do we have to fly the American flag too?
                 — David Musgrave

Dear Mr. Musgrave:
      You can fly your company flag alone. When flown with the American flag, the American flag is on top.
               – Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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At our school’s classes we cover how to fold the American flag, its proper uses, and proper display. When we addressed the issue of how it is draped on a coffin, I had the question: Is it only used for military personnel or can it be used for civilians too?  I had no idea what the rules are and would appreciate your advice.
   — John R.

I am a retired police officer and am leaving instructions for my family once I pass away.(Hopefully not for a long time in the future).  My father was in the Army Air Corps during WWII. When he died his casket was draped with an American flag as a veteran. I have that flag.
Is an appropriate request to have the same flag drape my casket after my death?
   — Kevin P.

Dear J.R and K.P.:
Anyone United States citizen can have the U.S. flag on their casket — as long as the flag is displayed correctly. The rules are from the government, not the military. When the flag is used to cover a casket, it should be placed so the top left of the flag (the blue field with stars) is over the head and over the body’s left shoulder. (What’s the body’s left, and the left of the body for the viewer are different. See the photo below.The flag should not be lowered into the grave or allowed to touch the ground.
There is much to learn on flags, but check out the rules in advance and then display it proudly.
   — Robert Hickey

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I’ve seen people in civilian clothes saluting, but I thought the rule was only the military saluted. Can a regular civilians salute the flag?
— Dwight Roland

Dear Mr. Roland:
      #1: Armed Services personnel in uniform salute the flag.
      #2: Regular citizens remove their hat, stand at attention, face the flag, and put their right hand over your heart.
That’s the norm in for what to do when the the US Flag is ‘in motion’ or when the US National Anthem is being played. But of course things aren’t always totally black and white.
       The Fine Print: Among the Armed Services there are practices confusing to those of us outside the military because it looks like some ‘civilians’ are saluting the flag.
* Veterans wearing civilian clothes are authorized to salute the flag (See press release). 
     * And other directives (e.g., Air Force directive (AFI 134 1201 Paragraph 2.17) — which I am told is the same in all branches of service) specify that active duty personnel when outdoors and wearing civilian clothes — may also salute the flag. It says:
“When the flag is displayed, all present except those in formation, should stand at attention facing the flag with their right hand over their heart. Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present, but not in uniform, may render the military salute.  All others should remove their hat with their right hand and hold the headdress at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.  Individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the National Anthem and maintain that position until the last note.  When the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.”
So the Armed Services have their own rules, but for us regular civilians … we should follow #2 above and we will be just fine.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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We have an upcoming event next week at which both of our current U. S. Senators will be speaking as will one of our former U. S. Senators, a long-serving senator who retired last year.  What is the proper way to differentiate between the current senators and retired senator in the printed program that will be made available to those attending that day?  Is the situation different if a senator or member of congress is defeated in an election instead of retiring?
This event, sponsored by the University, will be held at our local Air Force Base, so we have political, military, and academic protocol issues coming together at one event.  We want to get things right.
— North Dakota Chairman

Dear Dear Mr. Chairman:
The forms of address for current and retired senators is the same … so in the program you should differentiate between them with a modifying statement after their name:

The Honorable Full Name
Senator for North Dakota

The Honorable Full Name
Senator for North Dakota, 1990-2006

Precedence of current senators is the one elected first is first.  Precedence of a former is with, but after any current.
Former senators …. retired or defeated … continue to use the same forms of address. Exception is a senator who was removed from office: he or she would no longer be addressed as The Honorable.
I cover all this in my book if this sort of thing comes up often.
Just in case you haven’t, that local Air Force Base you mention has a Protocol Officer with whom you should be coordinating all this.
I don’t know who is the current head of protocol at Ellsworth AFB, but plenty of USAF Protocol Officers are grads of The Protocol School of Washington, so it’s likely they use my book.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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Is it improper for someone to put a little flag (appropriately displayed) on a civilian’s grave? … like the flags that are put on the military graves on Memorial Day?  We have a gentleman in our town that is questioning another citizen placing a flag on her husband’s grave.
— Anita Clarkson

Dear Ms. Clarkson:
The American flag is frequently seen the graves of veterans, so placed to honor their service.  But, anyone can put a small American flag on a grave if it is done correctly.
         – Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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Is it proper (or required) to play the National Anthem at an event where Mrs. Obama is speaking? Is it a good idea to?
Does it make the event become more formal by adding the National Anthem to the program?
        — Daryl Fairlington

Dear Mr. Fairlington:
It would depend on the event …. not on the presence of the First Lady.
Mrs. Obama could attend a local school’s assembly and no anthem would be played.
Or she could attend a civic event and the anthem would be played. But it’s not due to the presence of the First Lady.
I’d agree that including the playing of the National Anthem does create a more formal event.
         – Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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I am planning my daughter, Alexis’, wedding and need your help. Alexis and Keith are being married in a local church, not on a military base. Is it appropriate to have the United States Flag hanging in the chapel during the ceremony?
— Michael Halpern

Dear Mr. Halpern,
The American flag can be flown anywhere … just fly it correctly.  Contact your local military district for instructions on how to fly a flag, check out on-line display guidelines or, even, call the Boy Scouts!

– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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