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Why Do U.S. Flags Sometimes Seem “Backwards” on Military Uniforms?

Army Regulation 670-1 dictates how a U.S. soldier’s uniform must look. A portion of that regulation, known as “Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia,” stipulates that the American flag be worn backwards on the right shoulder of a soldier’s uniform. Why? The rule dates back to the Army's early history, when a standard bearer carried the flag into battle. As the standard bearer charged, his forward momentum caused the flag to stream back in the wind, the blue patch of stars facing forward. The same applies to the backward patch on the right shoulder -- it is designed to look like the flag is flying in the breeze as the soldier moves forward, and it never appears that the stars are in retreat.

It's a grand old flag:

  • America takes its flag seriously. The place of honor for the American flag is always to the right of other organizational flags, such as Marine Corps or Navy flags.

  • When carried together with an organizational flag, the American flag is carried to the right of the line of march.

  • An organizational flag may be dipped in salute to the reviewing officer at a parade, or during the national anthem, but the American flag is never dipped in salute.

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