This fact sheet furnishes information concerning service flags and service lapel buttons which are for use by members of families of persons serving in the Armed Forces. It is from The Institute of Heraldry on their FAQ page about service flags with some corrections and updates.
1. Department of Defense Directive 1348.20, 1 December 1967, (since replaced by DoD 1348.33-M, "Military Decorations and Awards) implemented an Act of Congress which authorizes a service flag and a service lapel button (See 36 U.S.C. 179-182).
2. The Secretary of the Army has been designated to act as executive agent of the Secretary of Defense for the purpose of granting certificates of authority for the manufacture and sale of service flags and service lapel buttons conforming to the approved design described herein; providing appropriate design instructions to manufacturers; and administering the provisions of Section 181 of the Act referred to in paragraph 1 above, under which any person, firm, or corporation which manufactures such service flag or service lapel button without having first obtained a certificate of authority to manufacture, or otherwise violates the provisions of the Act, shall, upon conviction thereof, be fined not more than $1,000. The Secretary of the Army, in turn, has delegated to the Director, The Institute of Heraldry, United States Army, responsibility for issuing certificates governing the manufacture and sale of the service flag and service lapel button.
3. Portions of the information which follows have been taken from the Department of Defense Directive cited in paragraph 1 above, and Department of Defense Instruction 1348.33-M, Manual of Military Decorations and Awards, July 1990.
(1) "Members of the immediate family" include wife, husband, mother, father, stepmother, stepfather, parent through adoption, foster parents who stand or stood in loco parentis, children, stepchildren, children through adoption, bothers, sisters, half brothers, and half sisters of a member of the Armed Forces of the United States.
include those group organizations such as churches, schools, colleges, fraternities,
sororities, societies, and places of business with which the member of the Armed Forces
was or is associated.
The Institute of Heraldry Fact Sheet
No. 7 Revised 1 March 2002
(1) The service flag authorized by the Act may be displayed in a window of the place of residence of persons who are members of the immediate family of a person 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 may be engaged, for the duration of such period of war or hostilities.
(2) The service flag may be displayed by an organization to honor the members of that organization 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 may be engaged, for the duration of such period of war or hostilities.
(3) The service lapel button authorized by the Act may be worn by members of the immediate family of a person serving in the Armed Forces of the United States may be engaged, for the duration of such period of war or hostilities.
(1) A design for the service flag is approved as follows:
(a) Flag for immediate family. On a white rectangular field a blue star or stars within a red border.
1. The number of blue stars will correspond to the number of individuals from the "immediate family" who are symbolized on the flag.
2. The flag horizontally displayed will have the stars arranged in a horizontal line or lines with one point of star up.
3. The flag described in 1 and 2 above may be displayed vertically.
4. If the individual symbolized is killed or dies while serving, from causes other than dishonorable, the star representing that individual will have superimposed thereon a gold star of smaller size so that the blue forms a border. On flags displaying multiple stars, including gold stars, when the flags are suspended, as against a wall, the gold star(s) will be to the right of, or above the blue star(s) (figure 1 and 4).
(b) Flag for organizations. The flag for organizations will correspond to that described for an immediate family member, as above, subject to the following additional provisions:
1. Instead of using a separate star for each member, one star may be used with the number of the members indicated by Arabic numerals, which will appear below the star (figure 3).
2. If any members are deceased (having been killed or died while serving, from causes other than dishonorable), a gold star will be placed nearest the staff, or above the blue star in the case of a flag used in a vertical display (figure 4). Below this star will be the Arabic numerals.
3. The gold stars in both cases will be smaller than the blue stars so that the blue will form a border. The numerals in all cases will be in blue.
(c) Color and relative proportions. The shades of colors used in the flag and the relative proportions shall be in accordance with manufacturing instruction furnished to licensed manufacturers by the Department of the Army.
2. Service Lapel Button. The service lapel button shall be a blue star on a white rectangular field within a red border, 3/16 inch by 3/8 inch in overall size (figure 5). The shades of colors and the detailed dimensions shall be in accordance with manufacturing instructions to licensed manufacturers by the Department of the Army.
d. Display of the Service Flag
(1) The service flag shall be treated with dignity and respect. When displayed with the flag of the United States, the service flag shall be of approximately equal size but never larger than the flag of the United States. The flag of the United States will occupy the position of honor.
(2) When the service flag is displayed other than by being flown from a staff, it will be suspended either horizontally or vertically.
(3) Users are cautioned against the use of the service flag for advertising purposes. It will not be embroidered on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, and the like; printed, or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discarded; or used as any portion of a costume or athletic uniform. Advertising signs will not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the service flag is flown.
(4) For cautions against the improper use of the service flag, users should be guided generally by the provisions of 36 U.S.C. 176 which apply to the flag of the United States of America.
e. Wearing of the Service Lapel Button
(1) The blue star of the service lapel button worn by members of the immediate family shall signify that one or more members are serving in the Armed Forces under the conditions specified in paragraph 3b(3) above. Multiple blue stars are not authorized.
(2) A person eligible to wear the gold star lapel button may wear the service lapel button in conjunction therewith if that person is also entitled to wear the service lapel button. A gold star is not authorized as part of the service lapel button.
f. Application for Licensing
(1) Applicants who desire to enter into the manufacture and sale of the service flag or the service lapel button should address applications to Director, The Institute of Heraldry, 9325 Gunston Road, Room S-112, Fort Belvoir, Virginia 22060-5579.
(2) A certificate of authority to manufacture and sell the service flag or the service lapel button will be granted only upon agreement in writing by the applicant that he will not deviate in the manufacture or sale of the approved official service flag or service lapel button as described herein. The certificate of authority shall refer to the Act cited in paragraph 1 above.
(3) Drawings and instructions for the service flag and the service lapel button will be provided to manufacturers with the issuance of their certificate of authority.
g. Purchase of Service Flag and Service Lapel Button
(1) Service flags and service lapel buttons must be procured from commercial sources. The Government does not manufacture, issue or sell service flags or service lapel buttons.
(2) Names and addresses of those manufacturers who have been certified to produce the service flag and service lapel button are attached.
Flag Manufacturers Approved by the Institute of Heraldry for Service Flags