Displaying Military Flags
Each of the five uniformed military services has a flag, which Color Guards carry along with the National Color in parades and ceremonies. Called Colors these flags are normally displayed in the offices of commanders when not in use for parades and ceremonies; however, in their official use they are not flown on flagpoles. While there is no authorization for the flags of the five services to be flown by civilians—veterans, the families of active duty personnel and others fly them to show their pride in our military and the service branches they symbolize.
When these flags are displayed together, they are displayed according to an Order of Precedence determined by the Department of Defense as issued in Department of Defense Directive No. 1005.8 (dated October 31, 1977). The Order of Precedence is based on the seniority of the services and has several applications. It is used to determine the order of march in parades, the order service songs are played and the order in which the service flags are displayed.
The flags or colors in order for the military branches serving within the Department of Defense are: U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force. Since the Coast Guard is not assigned within the Department of Defense but currently is under Homeland Security, which is junior to the Department of Defense, the Coast Guard follows behind the Air Force in the Order of Precedence. If in time of war the Coast Guard were to be transferred to serve within the Department of Defense, it would move ahead of the Air Force to follow the U.S. Navy since the Coast Guard was founded before the Air Force was organized.