History of the American Flag
Flag Retirement Ceremony
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
Items Needed for a Flag Ceremony
•State, organization, scout or military service
•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
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
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