How to Do an Outdoor Flag Ceremony

by Connie Clark

When you hold a simple and dignified flag ceremony, you'll give this American symbol the respect it deserves. With some careful planning, such a flag ceremony isn't difficult to conduct.

Preparation

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

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

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.

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.

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

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

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

Say (if it's a Scout meeting), "Scout attention." This signals anyone in uniform to salute.

Say, "Color guard attention."

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

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

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

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."

Say, "Two!" This is a traditional signal to lower your hands. If you want, say, "Please remain standing while (song or poem) is recited/sung."

Say (if it's a Scout meeting), "Please join me in reciting the Scout Promise/Oath."

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

Say, "You may be seated."

Caller Commands: Closing

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

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

Say, "Color guard attention."

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

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

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

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

Tip

  • If you're doing a flag ceremony with children, they'll need some practice sessions. Don't worry if they forget what to do, just coach them through it.

Warnings

  • Remember that respect for the flag is protected under the law. Remind everyone involved that this is a solemn event.
  • The American flag should never touch the ground.

Items you will need

  • Working stationary flag pole (with cord attached) or portable flag holder
  • 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)

About the Author

Connie Clark has written articles, books and ad copy since 1983. Clients and publications include "The Los Angeles Times," Warner Bros., Honda, Fleetwood and more. Her latest books are "Who in the World Was the Unready King?" and "Twelve Easy Plays for Catechists and Kids." She holds a bachelor's degree in English from Loyola Marymount University.

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Stockbyte/Getty Images