Flag Patches and Uniforms

Date Published: 27 November 2004

Flag Patches and Uniforms

One thing that has bugged me ever since I first saw it is the use of the flag patch on Army uniforms. I'm not against having the patch -- that's fine -- what bugs me are some of the details. The largest of which is the fact that the flag patch is secondary to a combat unit patch. In my opinion, nothing should ever be put in a more prominent position than the US flag on a US military uniform. This article describes the current policy for placement of the flag on Army uniforms, both for deployed and non-deployed soldiers. To quote:

Army regulations call for the flag to be sewn on the right sleeve, one half-inch below the shoulder seam. If a combat patch is also placed on the right shoulder, the flag is sewn 1/8 inch below the combat patch.

Apart from the fact that this is disrespectful to the flag and rather egotistical on the part of the unit whose patch is displayed higher than the flag, it's also a practical issue. Every soldier who ships out to a combat zone the first time has the flag in its proper place, at the top of their right sleeve. However, after 90 days (or whenever their unit decides to have a ceremony and issue them), they receive combat patches and the authorization to wear them. At that point, the flag gets a back seat to the unit, and torn off the uniform and then re-sewn somewhere below the unit patch.

I am, however, pleased to see that the Army's new uniform, announced last summer, does away with this embarrassment. You can see the new uniform described here, including a picture displaying the placement of the flag patch and unit patches.

And for those interested in flag display guidance, you'll find the US Flag Code a good place to start.

Another thing I'm not too keen on is the fact that the flag is backwards. I understand the intent, which you'll find explained here, but it seems to me that both the backward flag confusion and the issue of the flag being secondary to the combat patch could have been avoided if the US Flag (unreversed) were worn on the top of the left shoulder. I'm sure somebody somewhere came up with a reason why it should be on the right shoulder, but I'm also pretty sure I could make an equally compelling argument for the left. The new uniforms keep the backward (er, sorry, โ€œreverse fieldโ€) flag, but at least it is kept in a place of proper respect.

Steve Smith

About Ardalis

Software Architect

Steve is an experienced software architect and trainer, focusing on code quality and Domain-Driven Design with .NET.