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Flag Ceremony Question

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Our Pack will be conducting the flag ceremony at the elementary school's Veteran's Day program. While we were practicing, we used the command "color guard re-form" then "color guard retreat". I knew "retreat" was probably not the correct term, but couldn't come up with anything else. I've had a chance to google now and know what's appropriate. However, we won't have another chance to practice and I'm concerned that changing anything will throw the boys off. Is the phrase "color guard retreat" egregious enough that we should make a change anyway?

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In the past, we used to say retreat, and a few people got upset saying that color guards do not retreat.


Funny thing is, none of the active military dads or any retired military vets were ever upset.


But just to keep the peace and stop people from freaking out, we now say "Color guard dismissed".

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Okay, so I forgot to answer your actual question:


No, I don't think it's tyhat big a deal. If people want to get offended, they will find something wether it's the use of retreat to wether the shirt was ironed or the scout's shoes were appropriate or not.

If somebody really wants to find fault, they will find it wherever they can.

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Ana, what you currently use is fine. Kathy's suggestion is good too.


Scoutfish, I got a real chuckle out of your observation that military folks and retirees didn't get upset. I've served in the military for 27 years now, and I'm the same way. The scouts are doing their best. The commands and ceremony can be done any number of ways. Their heart is in the right place. This isn't boot camp.


The only folks I've seen get bossy about drill and ceremony in the BSA are folks that aren't military. Likewise, when it comes to uniform zealots, they are usually not military. I hear more uniform reg quoting and hand wringing about uniforms when I'm at scouting events than I ever do on duty.


But I digress......


Ana, I'm sure your cubs are on the right path, and I wish you all the very best!(This message has been edited by desertrat77)

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I go with retreat. Retreat is an orderly march back to where they came from. There's no shame in retreating, just retreating disorderly. Dismissed on the other hand means, well, they're dismissed -- they could go walk in any direction they want because they're now no longer part of the Color Guard.

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A flag ceremony normally tries to emulate the military in many ways. It doesn't have to, it is a civilian ceremony. Whatever words one uses is okay.


For those who prefer a sense of "military" to the instructions/commands, it is


COLOR GUARD, FALL IN (they should know that they automatically fall in at attention)


The caller may have the people rise, take off their hats, etc. but it is not necessary in that this will happen anyway as the flag passes.


FORWARD MARCH (to move towards flag pole or flag stands)


HALT (in front of the flags, as a group)


PRESENT THE COLOR (or Colors if there is more than one flag) Put on lanyard and rise or place in in stands.


RETURN TO POST (or just POST) Color guard reforms in front of flags where they were first halted. Do your Pledge, etc.


For the Pledge you may wish to say SCOUTS SALUTE, which is traditional, but the military command would be PRESENT ARMS. After the Pledge, it is traditionally TWO, but SHOULDER ARMS would be military.










One does not need to say Color Guard before each command. The two commands that it is used is at the beginning of entrance and exit commands so the CG knows they're to pay attention.


Fall In indicates the color guard is at ATTENTION, and they maintain ATTENTION throughout the ceremony until the command DISMISSED is given.


This series of commands avoid the retreat issue and the dismissal is after the work of the CG is finished.


But as I said at the beginning, it is a civilian ceremony, there is no wrong way to do it if a sense of respect for the flag is maintained.


Stosh(This message has been edited by jblake47)

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Hmmmm..... the bugle call played at the beginning of an evening flag ceremony is called.... wait for it.... "Retreat".


This is like the kids who shreek in horror when the flag team allows the flag to brush the ground. They all scramble for their lighters 'cause everyone knows if the flag touches the ground you have to burn it.


If anyone would bother to read the actual Flag Code, they would see D'rat is right. The procedure isn't important, it's a matter of showing respect and honor.

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I could be wrong (the Bad Ideas T-Shirt Girl is distracting me) but I thought it was because in the old days the Color Guard guarded the colors (all the regiments flags) during a battle. This would include the Regimental Standard as well as the National Flag. Plural as in more than one.


When we do a Flag Ceremony we usually have the US Flag as well as a State, Pack, or Troop flag.

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Maybe that's why they call the group a Colors Guard. :)


When a real (not ceremonial) color guard was last used, only one flag was necessary, so the term color guard was adopted.


A historical color is one flag.


Multiple flags are colors


This problem is also seen in the use of the word pants/trousers. One pair of pants? When did anyone ever purchase only one pant? If I have only one foot I might get by with buying only one in a pair of shoes, but for modesty reasons, I've always bought both pants. :) But one has a pant leg and could have a single pant pocket as well.


Aren't cha glad ya got though English? I would hate to have to learn it as a second language.


When a color guard was last used on a battlefield, it was necessary to have only one flag, either the national flag or a unit designation flag, normally a regimental/state flag or maybe a battle flag like the Army of Northern Virginia flag, (i.e. "rebel" flag) They did not need both but could have them both on the field. 8th Wisconsin Infantry also carried a bald eagle named Old Abe as part of it's color guard. In today's world it would be similar to a garrison (camp) ceremony with the raising of the flag. Troops show up with their troop flag, but no national. Each troop would be identified with a color and it doesn't "compete" with the national flag to be raised.


And for all the purists out there whenever there are three flags in the modern color guard, the American flag goes out front, NOT on the right end of the line of multiple flags.


The bugle call TO THE COLORS was a battalion call to all different regiments in the field (non-garrison) to form up for parade, not raise a flag. Each regiment had it's own flag and so when the call went out in a camp it was for multiple regiments to form up all at the same time around their regimental color(s) for morning and/or evening parade. A battalion was 3-4 regiments, thus color would be plural because the 3-4 regiments would be forming up around 3-4 colors


The correct command to the bugler by the adjutant to form the regiment with only one flag was TO THE COLOR. With a bugle call there is no such thing as singular/plural.


In a battlefield color guard, the national flag could be on either side as long as it was out there marking right of center in the regiment.


Tradition and history are often at odds with each other. For example Taps was originally played on the drum, not the bugle. That's why it's called ... wait for it.... TAPS. :)


Regimental bugler would play LIGHTS OUT followed by soft tapping on each of the company drums by the drummer. Butterfield changed this military protocol with a new tradition eventually replacing military protocol.


Raising and lowering of flags was a garrison duty. Armies in the field never raised or lowered flags. TO THE COLOR(S) meant the men were to start marching out of camp to the parade ground, the color company being the first on the line in the "middle" of the regiment on the left end of the color company. It is amazing how many of our modern traditions have taken over in the re-write of history.


Remember, modern traditions have their roots tracing back to a certain practice which may or may not have anything to do with what's being done today, i.e. taps on a bugle. :) Also there is a major disconnect between Civilian US Flag Code, modern military flag protocol and historical military flag protocol. Boy Scouts should be using the Civilian US Flag Code.



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