Department of Defense (DOD) officials on Feb. 10 issued a memorandum to service members telling them that large displays of the American flag at sporting events are no longer appropriate.
The military is currently struggling with low recruitment numbers across all services, a “draught” not seen since 1973 when the United States left Vietnam and the draft effectively ended, Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr of the Heritage Foundation told NBC News. Though the guidance is in alignment with Title 4, United States Code or the U.S. Flag Code, it marks a reversal of practices once encouraged by the Pentagon.
“In recent years, some sporting events have asked military members to hold large, horizontal flags during events, and some military units have carried them in parades. While many, including Service members, find these events moving and patriotic, according to the code, the flag should never touch the ground or be carried flat or horizontally,” Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman, DOD spokesperson, told the Daily Caller.
“Additionally, DoD jump teams may only incorporate the U.S. flag in their public demonstrations if the flag can be caught reliably and handled respectfully by ground personnel during landings. This memorandum ensures that our Service members can properly showcase their patriotism and military capabilities while complying with DoD policy,” Schwegman said.
“While many, including military members, view these displays as inspiring and patriotic, uniformed service members may not participate directly in the unfurling, holding and/or carrying of giant, horizontal U.S. flags that are displayed during community outreach events.” pic.twitter.com/C2ELUbxP0J
— Rachel S. Cohen (@rachelkaras) February 23, 2023
In 2015, it was discovered that DOD officials paid more than $6.8 million over the previous four years for patriotic exhibitions, such as the now discouraged full-field flag displays at sporting events, the Indy Star reported. Following a joint oversight report by then Republican Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, the Pentagon banned the practice of “paid patriotism,” an initiative they began to help with recruitment, NPR reported.
Despite dropping high school diploma and GED requirements to join the service and waiving restrictions on tattoos, an internal DOD survey found that only 9% of those eligible to serve in the military wanted to do so, NBC News reported. (RELATED: Biden Admin Super-Charged Military Recruitment Crisis With ‘Woke Policies,’ Expert Says)
Patriotism, too, is at an all time low in America. A recent Gallup poll showed just 38% of adults proclaiming themselves ‘extremely proud’ to be an American, a significant dip from the average 55% that had been noted since the question was first asked in 2001, CNN reported.
Despite these struggles, DOD officials maintain that the memorandum is in keeping with regulations and will better ensure the flag is treated with dignity and respect.
“I encourage public affairs officers to work with sponsors of community events to develop other ways to showcase the patriotism and capabilities of our military that comply with DoD policy,” Chris Meagher, assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs said, according to Stars and Stripes.