Protocol for the Presentation of Colors

By Jennifer Holik
Follow proper presentation procedures for U.S. Flag display during ceremonies.

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The presentation of colors is a ceremony presenting or retiring a flag. The "colors" refer to a flag. A color guard, consisting of two honor guards and two flag bearers, presents or retires the colors. A Sergeant-at-Arms dictates the orders during the ceremony. Proper respect should be given to the colors at all times during the ceremony.

Officer's Roles

The presiding officer or designated appointee of an organization announces that the colors will be presented. Guests rise and the officer asks that the colors to be presented. The Sergeant gives the orders to the honor guard and flag bearers. He calls the group to attention before marching to the front of the room to face the appointed officer. The officer will signal that the colors should be presented, and the Sergeant gives the order.

Presenting the Colors on a Stage

The flag bearers carry the flags in a holster and march forward in step with the other bearers. The bearers stop marching at a designated spot and wait for a "halt" command from the Sergeant. The flag bearers proceed to the center of the stage where the flags will be placed. The honor guard remains behind the flag bearers. The flag bearer takes two steps forward and waits for the next flag bearer to step forward. The bearer faces left while the other bearer faces right. The flag bearers place the flags in stands and take a step backwards. The flags are placed on a stage to the right of a speaker, preferably at the same height as the speaker.

Presenting the Colors on the Floor

When a stage is not available, the flags must be placed in flag holders on the floor. The flags must be placed to the left of the speaker. The honor guard remains at attention while the flag bearers to march in a line toward the flag holders. One bearer then faces right while the other bearer faces left. The flag bearers place the flags in the stands and take a step backwards.

The End of Presentation

When the colors have been presented, the group faces the flags and stands at attention. Honor is given to the flag, whether it is a salute, standing at attention or removal of hats and placing hands over hearts. The Pledge of Allegiance is recited and the color guard retreats upon orders from the Sergeant.

About the Author

Jennifer Holik, a professional genealogist, has been writing professionally since 2009. She writes for Chicago-area genealogy society publications. Holik has a Bachelor of Arts in history from the Missouri University of Science and Technology.