Military Flags and the Meaning of Their Emblems

Expressing pride in our country is commonly seen as displaying the American flag. Most understand that the stripes on the flag honor the history that built our nation; 13 stripes for the original 13 colonies. The 50 stars represent the 50 states that stand in unity today. The symbolism on our flag celebrates our nation’s accomplishments by acknowledging the past.

As you travel state to state, you see banners representing different cultures and history. Many people cherish the meaning of their state flags in the same way we all recognize the history of the American flag.

Like the state flags and the national flag, each of the five branches of the military has a banner that represents the unique history and struggles of the entity it represents. The military flags have several common themes, suggesting a shared connection:

  • The bald eagle became the national emblem for our country in 1782. It represents power, authority, and strength.
  • The fouled anchor is the emblem of Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy, but it’s come to represent Unity, Service, and Navigation. ‘Foul’ is a nautical term and refers to difficulties or challenges. Historically, it specifically meant to become entangled. This symbol, the anchor with a chain draped around it, is used to depict the trials and tribulations that servicemen and women endure to defend our nation.
  • Each of the military flags has a motto identifying the philosophy of the organization.
Army Flag

The Army revealed its flag to the public on June 14, 1956. It’s the newest representative flag featuring a white background with the original War Office seal in the center. The words “United States Army” are written on a red scroll underneath the seal. A blue banner at the top of the flag contains the words “This We’ll Defend." The year “1775” appears at the bottom of the flag in blue text; this is the year the Continental Army formed to fight against the British in the American Revolution. The Army flag recognizes its predecessor just as the United States flag recognizes the original thirteen colonies.

The Navy

The U.S. Navy’s flag has a dark navy blue background and a yellow scroll with the words “United States Navy.” Above the scroll is an eagle with outspread wings and a single talon on a fouled anchor. The eagle appears to be defending a ship at sea conveying that America’s reach extends beyond our borders and across oceans. The fouled anchor has long represented the trials and tribulations that every Chief Petty Officer of the Navy must endure. In this context, it applies to Naval service as a whole. Representing America’s collective strength, the eagle bears some of that weight as well.

Marine Corps

The Marine flag depicts a fouled anchor behind the globe on a red background. The Marines have proudly served in nearly every U.S. Military conflict since the formation of the “Continental Marines” in 1775. The depiction of the globe signifies their presence felt around the world. In conjunction with the fouled anchor, it honors the challenges they overcame to attain such a presence. The flag represents pride, honor, tradition, bravery, and integrity. Look closely at the scroll in the eagle’s beak. It reads the motto of the modern Marine Corps: Semper Fidelis, meaning “always faithful.”

Air Force Flag

The background of the flag is ultramarine blue with thirteen white stars creating a semicircle around the central emblem. The eagle is featured prominently in the center of the flag. Because of the role in defending America’s skies, it is fitting that the Air Force chose to place emphasis on the eagle. . The thirteen stars once again pay tribute to our country's original thirteen colonies. The eagle’s wingspan frames the three stars at the top of the flag. These three stars represent the branches of National Defense: the Army, Air Force, and Navy. Pride in one branch of the military means acknowledging the shared community in which it belongs.

The Coast Guard Flag

The eagle is the centerpiece of the Coast Guard flag. It sits on a white background with the words “United States Coast Guard” above the eagle. The eagle grasps a banner with its beak featuring the words “e. Pluribus Unum”. This Latin phrase, “out of many, one" is the motto of the US. The eagle grasps with one talon an olive branch and the other, arrows. This iconography signifies the Coast Guard’s mission for peace and willingness to defend it with force when necessary. Underneath the eagle, the Latin phrase Semper Paratus is printed, meaning “always ready.” The year 1790 found at the bottom of the flag is a nod to the U.S. Coast Guard’s predecessor, the U.S. Revenue Cutter Services.


Independence Bunting offers military flags for you to proudly display your military service or solidarity with our members of the armed forces. Acknowledging our history and the shared responsibilities of our armed service branches is an important part of expressing pride in the country as a whole. We proudly carry these patriotic, made-in-the-U.S.A. emblems for any occasion. Explore our website, or contact us directly at 1-800-995-9129 for more information.