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Backward flag patch

Posted by ESC on July 19, 2004

This isn't a phrase but I thought it was an interesting bit of trivia.

Posted on Mon, Jul. 19, 2004
Lexington Herald-Leader (Ky.)

Ask Us: Backward patch: an Army thing

QUESTION: Patches on the shoulders of U.S. soldiers in Iraq are arranged the wrong way. The blue and stars should be on the left and not the right of the patch. Why is that?

ANSWER: The backward appearance of the U.S. flag on a serviceman's sleeve is not a mistake. The flag patch worn on the right shoulder of a U.S. soldier's uniform is deliberately reversed. Army regulations call for the flag "to be worn so that to observers, it looks as if the flag is flying against a breeze."

What does a stiff wind have to do with this custom? According to an article in military newspaper, Stars and Stripes, the rule is a nod to the U.S. Army's early history.

Mounted cavalry and infantry units would always designate one soldier as "standard bearer," to carry the flag into the fight. As the standard bearer charged, his rapid forward momentum would cause the flag to stream back. And since the flag is mounted with the canton closest to the pole, that section would always be forward.

So if a soldier is charging into the battle, the flag would give the appearance of forward motion. For the right shoulder, the flag only appears "backward."