Different Types of American Flags
Everyone knows Old Glory when they see her waving majestically in the breeze. There’s no mistaking the red, white and blue: 13 stripes red and white stripes and 50 white stars on a field of blue. There’s no other flag in the world quite like it! But did you know that our star-spangled banner actually has different versions?
Adopting the iconography of the American flag has been central to expressing patriotism for decades. Over the years, many groups and organizations have used the American flag as part of their own unique design—to embody everything the flag means and to align their own causes and meanings with it. The result is a collection of flags that have symbolic meaning.
Here’s a look at some of the different types of American flags: what they stand for and the message they intend to send.
POW and MIA
When looking at different types of American flags, we expect to see the red, white and blue. That’s not the case with the Prisoner of War (POW) / Missing in Action (MIA). This flag is black with a white image and the words "you will not be forgotten" in white lettering. This is an American flag that was recognized by Congress as a remembrance of the soldiers who never came home from war. It started as a symbol of the Vietnam War, but now encompasses all soldiers who are POW or MIA.
Thin Blue Line
A Thin Blue Line flag is the American stars and stripes, displayed in black and white, except one line is colored blue. This signifies the police force and those who have given their lives in the line of duty. While this isn't a flag recognized by Congress like the POW/MIA flag, it’s still a uniquely American flag with a lot of meaning behind it. There are also iterations of this flag that show the blue field behind the stars, to further illustrate the blue (police).
Other Thin Line Flags
The popularity of the Thin Blue Line flag has sparked several other variations on this concept—each with its own meaning. Despite the same design, each flag features a different color line to symbolize a different group. Here’s a quick overview of them:
- Green for military service members.
- Orange for search and rescue personnel.
- Yellow for emergency dispatchers.
- Red for firefighters.
- White for paramedics and EMS workers.
- Pink for nurses and healthcare workers.
Each Thin Line flag features the specific color of the group it supports on the strip directly below the field of stars. Some flags may also feature several colors, although these aren’t as popular.
While you might not think of state flags as different types of American flags, they are in a way! Each state in our nation has its own unique flag with very American elements such as the red, white or blue colors, or images of state monuments easily recognizable as America, and the states make up our great nation. If you are flying your state flag, you are also flying an American flag, so to speak! Each state has an official flag that should be flown just below the American flag on flagpoles, and some major cities even have flags, known as “the peoples’ flags,” which would be flown below American and State flags.
Don't Tread on Me
Another uniquely American flag we often forget is rooted in America is the Don't Tread on Me flag. Also called a Gadsden flag, this flag has dual meaning. It is the unofficial symbol of the Marines, but many people use it to show respect to the American flag by telling others not to tread on it and treat it with respect. The flag can also have two different appearances adding to its duality. It can be yellow with a snake on it or it can be red and white stripes with a snake on it.
It's important not to confuse this flag with Confederate flags. It symbolizes America’s readiness to fight against Britain in the American Revolution and pre-dates the Civil War by more than 80 years.
Fly the Flag that Embodies Your Patriotism
Every person should fly the star-spangled banner at their home or business, as a show of their support for American patriotism. But Old Glory is far from the only flag that represents us as a nation! Choose any of these flags to fly below it, to show your support for your state, first responders or a branch of the armed forces. So long as the red, white and blue is flown the highest, you can show your support with any other flag that speaks to you.
Another great way to show your patriotism? Choose apparel that sports red, white and blue symbolism or any of these flag designs! Browse apparel from The Flag Shirt today!
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