USA Flag Patch Uniform

As a tactical professional, you are well aware that your profession has its own unique set of codes and language which can easily confuse a civilian. When it comes to the meaning of a backwards American flag, this is one of those many things that may be well known to a tactical professional yet a mystery to a civilian. Let's take a closer look at the meaning of a backwards flag.

Why The US Flag Sometimes Appears Backwards

The American flag is a symbol of freedom and a certain set of values we hold dear as a nation. According to the United States Flag Code, the American flag is a living symbol with traditional guidelines regarding how the flag is flown and handled in general, to help uphold the respect and honor it deserves after the sacrifices of so many. While some may mistakenly think that a backwards or reverse flag is a show of disrespect, it is actually a sign of respect to display it this way on a military uniform. There are rules and codes regarding how the American flag can be worn and displayed. An actual flag can never be worn as clothing; however, a flag patch may be attached to the uniform of patriotic organizations, military personnel, police officers, and firefighters. So, the only time you should see a backward or reverse flag is on the uniform of a military professional or LEO as an arm patch worn on their sleeve.

Now that we know where to find a backwards American flag, let's talk about why it is backward and how that is not a show of disrespect as you may suspect. A backward flag is only seen on the right shoulder of the uniformed professional. The reason for this is because the stars on the flag, also referred to as the union, should be displayed in high position meaning the stars are always in the top left corner when displayed. If the flag patch is being worn on the right shoulder, there is no way for the union to be in the left-hand corner, so the new position becomes front as the prominent placement meaning the stars are at the top of the design on the right side rather than in the left corner. While part of it has to do with the placement of the union, it also has to do with the fact that the flag patch should look like the flag is flying in the wind and this placement helps with that purpose when worn on the right shoulder of a uniform.

What Does It Mean to Invert a Flag?

If an American flag is displayed with the union down, this is considered a distress signal. Only in circumstances of dire distress or extreme danger to life or property will you see an inverted flag. Most of the guidelines for proper display of the flag are related to its position and use, but once a flag is worn out or no longer fit to display as an emblem of freedom, courage, and respect, it should be destroyed in a dignified way, typically by burning.

For more info on the significance and designs of patches for tactical professionals and service personnel, check out our guide to morale patches or shop our selection of morale patches today to find designs from top tactical brands.