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					                                       U.S. MARINE CORPS. JROTC
                                     Category 5 – General Military Subjects
                                   Skill 4 – Customs, Courtesies, and Traditions

           The National Colors -- Symbols of Freedom
                                                             “Hope,” “Liberty,” “Appeal to Heaven,” or
                                                             “Don’t Tread on Me” adorned those early
                                                                     In 1776, when George Washington took
   This lesson introduces you to the Marine                  command of the Continental Army at Cambridge,
   Corps courtesies and traditions in rendering              Mass., he stood under the Grand Union flag,
   honor to the National Colors.     It provides             which continued to show need and respect for
   information on how and when to pay tribute to             Great Britain.
   the colors.

         The U.S. flag is the most notable symbol
of our nation. It is important that you know how
to show respect for the U.S. flag. This lesson
explores the history of the U.S. flag, rules for
displaying the flag, and how to pay respect to it
when in and out of uniform.
                                                                           The Grand Union Flag

History                                                              However, to establish our independence
                                                             and unity, the Continental Congress in
        Before the United States became a nation,
                                                             Philadelphia created the first Stars and Stripes flag
many countries came to America represented by
                                                             on June 14, 1777.
their own flag. The Norsemen probed our coastal
waters sailing under the banner of a black raven.
Columbus carried the Spanish flag across the seas.
The Pilgrims carried the flag of Great Britain, and
the Dutch colonists brought their flag to New
Amsterdam. Additionally, each Native American
Indian tribe had its own totem and insignia.
Immigrants of many races and nationalities have
brought their symbols of loyalty to the shores of
this country.
         The first flags adopted by our colonial                            The First Stars and Stripes
forefathers were symbolic of their struggles with
                                                                       The flag of the United States in 1777 had
the wilderness of a new land. Beavers, pine trees,
                                                             13 alternating red and white stripes and a union,
rattlesnakes, anchors, and various mottoes such as
                                                             that is, an emblem standing for unity. The union

                                           U.S. MARINE CORPS. JROTC
                                        Category 5 – General Military Subjects
                                      Skill 4 – Customs, Courtesies, and Traditions

was a blue rectangle with white stars, representing              New Mexico and Arizona as the 47th and 48th
a constellation. Some historians give Betsy Ross                 states. President Dwight David Eisenhower
credit for sewing the first flag, but there is no                ordered the last two changes to the flag in 1959,
evidence that she designed it. Her fame is related               adding Alaska and Hawaii as the 49th and 50th
to a story told by her grandson. Also, there were                states.
problems with the design because there were no
                                                                          There is no fixed order for numbering the
directions as to how the stars should look -- some
                                                                 stars on the flag, nor are stars assigned to
had five points, others had six or eight points,
                                                                 particular states. The stars represent the states
some had the stars in a circle, some had them in
                                                                 collectively, not individually. The colors used in
rows, while others scattered them without any
                                                                 the flag are white for hope, purity, and innocence;
apparent design. The “Betsy Ross flag” had the
                                                                 red for hardiness and valor; and blue (the color of
stars in a circle.
                                                                 heaven) for reverence to God, loyalty, vigilance,
        As the United States admitted new states                 perseverance, and justice.
to the union, additional stripes and stars were
added to the flag to represent them. The first
change took place in 1794 when Congress added                    Names for the National Flag
two stars and two stripes for Vermont and                                 The American flag is referred to by
Kentucky.                                                        different names depending on how and where the
                                                                 flag is being displayed. Marine Corps terms
                                                                 dealing with flags are precise and particular. As a
                                                                 MJROTC cadet, you must learn to distinguish the
                                                                 various kinds of flags and use the correct
                                                                 terminology when referring to them.
                                                                          National Ensign. This is the national
                                                                 flag displayed over Marine or naval posts, stations,
                                                                 or ships. The National Ensign comes in three
                                                                 sizes. These are:
                                                                        Post flag: size 10 feet by 19 feet, flown in
               Fifteen Stars and Stripes
                                                                         fair weather except on Sundays and
         Fearing that too many more stripes would                        national holidays.
spoil the true design of the flag, Congress passed a
                                                                        Storm flag: size 5 feet by 9 feet 6 inches,
law in 1818 returning the flag to its original design
                                                                         flown during foul weather.
of 13 stripes and 20 white stars in a blue union.
The stripes would represent the first 13 colonies,                      Garrison flag: size 20 feet by 38 feet,
and the nation would continue to add a star for                          flown on Sundays and national holidays
each state that joined the United States.                                as provided in the Marine Corps Flag
         The arrangement of the stars varied until
1912, when President William Howard Taft issued                           National Color. This is the national flag
an executive order to place the stars in six rows of             carried by Marine organizations. When not in the
eight stars each -- acknowledging the admission of

                                       U.S. MARINE CORPS. JROTC
                                     Category 5 – General Military Subjects
                                   Skill 4 – Customs, Courtesies, and Traditions

hands of troops, the National Color is entrusted              attire, you must rise and come to the position of
to the adjutant.                                              attention. Placing your right hand over your heart
                                                              is optional. As with the salute, you will hold this
        National Standard. This is the national
                                                              position until the Colors pass you by six paces.
flag and is carried by a mounted, mechanical,
motorized, or aviation unit in Marine                                 Whether you are driving your vehicle or
organizations.                                                walking through a military installation, you should
                                                              never dash under cover to avoid paying respect to
          For more information on the display                 the flag. Talking during Colors or retreat is
  of the National Colors, refer to Navy                       forbidden and considered disrespectful.
  Regulations and the Marine Corps Flag Manual.

Saluting the “Colors”
          There are two daily ceremonies in which
Marines salute the Colors (National Flag). The
first is at the beginning of the day, at morning
colors (0800). This ceremony involves raising the
national flag while the National Anthem or “To
the Colors” is played. The second is at sunset and
consists of lowering the national flag while
“Retreat” or the National Anthem” is being
played. During both situations, if you are
outdoors, you must stop what you are doing, face
the flag or the direction in which Colors are being
held, come to the position of attention and render            In Civilian Clothes
a hand salute. You must hold this salute until the                      When you are in civilian clothes, you
last note of the music is sounded; then you may               must still take appropriate actions to honor the
proceed. If in formation, salute only on the order,           flag. When the Colors pass you, stand at attention
“Present Arms.”                                               with your hand over your heart until the Colors
                                                              are six steps beyond you. If you are wearing a hat,
          Another occasion where you would salute
                                                              remove and hold it over your left breast with your
the uncased Colors would be, if it were being
                                                              right hand, ensuring that your hand is still over
carried by a “Color Guard”. This usually consists             your heart. If you are outdoors and passing the
of approximately four service members. Two of
                                                              Colors, remove your hat (if you have one on) and
the members will be carrying flags while the other
                                                              place your right hand over your heart about six
two will be “Under Arms” (carrying rifles). If you            steps before reaching the Colors; remove your
are sitting, you must stand, come to the position
                                                              hand when you are six steps past the Colors.
of attention and render a hand salute if in uniform
and covered. You must hold the salute until the
Colors pass you by six paces. If you are in civilian

                                       U.S. MARINE CORPS. JROTC
                                     Category 5 – General Military Subjects
                                   Skill 4 – Customs, Courtesies, and Traditions

         Showing respect for the National Colors
is an integral part of the customs, courtesies, and
traditions followed by the MCJROTC. Without
these customs, courtesies, and traditions, handed
down from generations of fighting Marines, the
uniqueness of the Corps would not exist. The
morale, esprit de corps, and discipline, which run
deep in the Corps, can partly be attributed to the
honor and glory that all Marines pay to the
importance of the National Colors. As the
soldier’s proverb says, “The Flag is a jealous
mistress,” and any Marine will fight and die rather
than permit the National Colors or a Marine
Corps Color to be dishonored. 


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