Service flag

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A World War II–era service flag

A service flag or service banner in the United States is an official banner that family members of service members can display.[1] The flag or banner is defined as a white field with a red border, with a blue star for each family member serving in the Armed Forces of the United States during any period of war or hostilities in which the Armed Forces of the United States are engaged. A gold star (with a blue edge) represents a family member that died during service, without specifying cause of death. The deceased might have been killed in action, or died due to unrelated causes.[2]


Blue Star Service Banner
Gold Star Service Banner
The Silver Star Service Banner

The banner was designed in 1917 by United States Army Captain Robert L. Queisser of the Fifth Ohio Infantry, in honor of his two sons who were serving in World War I.[2] It was quickly adopted by the public and by government officials. On September 24, 1917, an Ohio congressman read into the Congressional Record:

The mayor of Cleveland, the Chamber of Commerce and the Governor of Ohio have adopted this service flag. The world should know of those who give so much for liberty. The dearest thing in all the world to a father and mother – their children.[3]


These flags were first used in World War I, with subsequent standardization and codification by the end of World War II.[4] They were not popular during the Vietnam War, but have come back into use.[5] In modern usage, an organization may fly a service flag if one of its members is serving active duty.[6]

Manufacture of these flags are only by specific government license in the territories under American jurisdiction.[1] The same section of the United States Code that limits manufacture of the banner also mentions lapel pins. There is no legal specification of the banner's size, but according to the DoD code,[7] the flag size ratio must be 10:19, the same as the Flag of the United States. When displayed with the national flag, the latter should take the place of honor. If the flags displayed differ in size, the national flag should be larger.

Blue and gold are the only colors specified for use, but silver stars are increasingly in use to represent those discharged from service because of wounds or being invalided home.[8] The Silver Star Families of America is an organization attempting to encourage the U.S. Congress to make the Silver Star Service Banner official for those wounded or injured in a war zone. Forty-nine states, Guam, Saipan, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Chickasaw Nation and over 2,700 cities and counties have issued proclamations in support of the Silver Star Banner and of Silver Star Service Banner Day on May 1 of every year.[9]

On April 21, 2010 the United States House of Representatives passed House Resolution 855, a stand alone resolution recognizing the Silver Star Service Banner and making May 1 Silver Star Service Banner Day. One state, Missouri, took steps to make such recognition a state law.[10]

In World War II, the Brazilian Clube Militar (Military Club) and the Casino da Urca adopted the concepts of the American service banner by giving posters to the family members of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force. On these posters the phrase Daqui saiu um Expedicionário was written, which means "From here came an Expeditionary". Although the design differs from the American banners, the mothers of the Brazilian soldiers also received a pin prominently featuring a blue star similar to American pins.[11]

Individuals entitled to display

The individuals entitled to display the service flag are clearly defined in 36 USC § 901 which reads:

A service flag approved by the Secretary of Defense may be displayed in a window of the place of residence of individuals who are members of the immediate family of an individual serving in the Armed Forces of the United States during any period of war or hostilities in which the Armed Forces of the United States are engaged.

The U.S. Code also discusses the wearing of lapel pins.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 36 U.S.C. § 901
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Service Flag of the United States at
  3. American Legion (unknown date). Blue Star Service Banners fact sheet.
  4. Nick Artimovich (May 2, 1997). Description at Flags of the World.
  5. John M. Simpson (December 30, 2005). Service Flag Graphics.
  6. Service
  7. Ebbesen, LGEN Samuel B. (September 1996). "DoD 1348.33-M, Manual of Military Decorations and Awards". Assistant Secretary of Defense (Force Management Policy). pp. 88–92. Retrieved 7 January 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Wisconsin Historical Images (2007), World War I "Sons in Service" Flag.
  9. Silver Star Families (2007).
  10. de Vera, Cory (April 23, 2010). "May 1 named Silver Star Service Banner Day". Springfield News-Leader. Springfield, Missouri: Gannett Company. p. A.11. ISSN 0893-3448. OCLC 44919665. Retrieved 7 March 2011. In Missouri and in more than 2,700 cities and counties, government officials have declared May 1 as a day to recognize service men and women injured, ill or dying from service in a war zone.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links