Why Is The Army Flag Patch Reversed?
Civilians often wonder why the US Army Flag Patch is reversed. The answer is: not all Army Flag Patches are reversed, but only those worn on the right shoulder. The reason has to do with proper display of the flag.
The blue field of stars should always be in the highest position of honor. When viewing the flag on a wall, the highest position of honor is the upper left when displayed horizontally, and at the top (upper left) when displayed vertically. When displayed on a “moving object” like a person or vehicle, the highest position of honor is the front, and not the rear; so the field of blue should be displayed to the front.
The same principle applies to the eagle rank of Colonels (or Navy Captains); the eagles’ heads are always worn facing forward when worn on the uniform, as the forward-facing eagle is the position of honor within heraldry.
In application, then, flags are displayed on moving vehicles with the blue-star field always displayed towards the front of the vehicle. In this way, the flag appears to be blowing in the wind as the vehicle travels forward (flags are always attached to their flag poles on the blue field side). If the flag were not reversed on the right hand side of the vehicle, the vehicle might appear to be moving backwards (or “retreating”).
The next time you visit an airport, notice that the US-flagged aircraft also have a “reverse” flag painted on the right side of the aircraft.
For flag patches worn on uniforms, the same principle applies: the blue star field always faces towards the front, with the red and white stripes behind. Think of the flag, not as a patch, but as a loose flag attached to the Soldier’s arm like a flag pole. As the Soldier moves forward, the red and white stripes will flow to the back.
As the proponent for standardization and authorization of heraldry items within the Department of Defense, the Institute of Heraldry addresses the apparent oddity of the reverse flag patch by stating, “When worn on the right sleeve, it is considered proper to reverse the design so that the union is at the observer’s right to suggest that the flag is flying in the breeze as the wearer moves forward.”
Doesn’t a red, white, and blue flag on a camouflaged uniform defeat the purpose of camouflage?
Yes, it does.
Previously the U.S. Code prescribed that military use of the flag will always be red, white, and blue. However, with the updated Army Battle Dress Uniform that was recently unveiled, the flag patch will become a camouflage, muted color.