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Dept. of Defense Bans Troops from Towing U.S. Flags During Parachute Jumps

The Department of Defense has issued a formal ruling barring military personnel from towing the American flag behind them during parachute jumps and from participating in the horizontal display of the American flag.

A Feb. 10 memo from the DOD Public Affairs office sent to the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and National Guard PR departments reminds soldiers to show proper respect for the U.S. Flag during community events.

“In recent years, many sponsors of sporting events have instituted a tradition of requesting uniformed military members to unfurl and hold giant, horizontal U.S. flags during events as an expression of patriotism and love of the country,” the memo states.

The memo cites the flag code and adds that parachute demonstrations necessarily end up dragging a flag on the ground if they tow one behind them during a jump, with the memo saying that jumps with “U.S. flags attached to, and flying in trail below the jumper,” will result “in the flag dragging along the ground during landings.”

“While many, including military members, view these displays as inspiring and patriotic…uniformed service members may not participate directly in the unfurling, holding, and/or carrying of giant, horizontal U.S. flags that are not displayed during community outreach events,” the memo continues. ”

“Similarly, DoD jump teams may not incorporate the US flag in their public demonstrations if the flag cannot be caught reliably and handled respectfully by ground personnel during landings,” the ruling insists.

In part, the U.S. Flag Code maintains that “no part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform,” and also notes that lapel pins depicting the flag must be worn on the left side of one’s chest “near the heart.”

While the U.S. Flag Code is a long tradition and serves as the basis for how the military treats our national banner, it does not have the force of law. It is a voluntary tradition or etiquette, not a law. Still, many feel that the code should be closely observed.
Regardless, the DoD relies on the code to “ensure that our Service members can properly showcase their patriotism and military capabilities while complying with DoD policy.”

The memo concludes by telling the various PR departments that the DoD encourages public affairs offices “to work with sponsors of community events to develop other ways to showcase the patriotism and capabilities of our military that comply with DoD policy.”


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