The Meaning Behind the Reversed American Flag Patch

The Meaning Behind the Reversed American Flag Patch

Jul 12, 2022

There are particular meanings for every designated patch that a uniformed service member wears on their uniform. The uniform isn’t just for show—it has deep significance.

The uniform shows what they have done in their career and who they are, just like a written resume manifested into a physical uniform worn by veterans and active-duty members. Read on to discover the meaning behind the reversed American flag patch and the role this iconic patch plays.


Out of all the uniform patches that you’ll see, the one that might stand out to you the most is the American flag, also known as the ensign. This is a symbol of honor and pride, but also one of identity in who we are and what we stand for. Every uniform bears this patch, and it comes with a great deal of meaning to those actively serving and veterans alike.


During the Civil War, the mounted cavalry and infantry chose one individual in each rank to carry the flag into battle. While military tactics have since changed and flags aren’t typically carried into battle on horseback, the visual of a flag in the wind remains a deeply symbolic image today. The evolution of this historical visual has led to the reversed American flag patch we see today.


Now that we have camouflage OCP uniforms, most of the patches and ribbons sit on the uniform via hook and loop fasteners. The ensign can only and will only ever show on the right shoulder by those members in the armed forces unless told otherwise by their leadership.

In general, this patch will remain on the right shoulder as a symbol of the flag flying over the shoulder as we are moving forward into combat. Like the wind reversing the flag as a flag bearer carried it on horseback, the flag on the right shoulder shows in reverse to display movement.

Now that you know the meaning behind the reversed American flag patch, you can educate those that don’t know. A significant aspect of understanding what the service stands for and what they are doing for the country comes from knowing our military’s history, symbolism, and mission.