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Flag Etiquette

It is always appropriate to fly the American flag in the United States. Some fly theirs every day of the year. Others, no less patriotic, show their respect by hoisting the star spangled banner on significant days.

Did you know there is a protocol for handling and displaying it?

If you are planning to fly the American flag for Memorial Day and Independence Day, consider the following rules of etiquette, as established by America’s flag authority, the National Flag Foundation.

  • Remember, the flag is a symbol of us all -- of all America, regardless of our backgrounds. It is not a political symbol. It is a symbol that each American should respect, for it represents the honor, courage and sacrifice of those who struggled to preserve the ideals upon which our country was founded: freedom, justice and opportunity for all. Contrary to other flags of the world, the U.S. Flag is the flag of its citizens – the people of all ages that make and keep America a stronghold and example of freedom.

  • Before displaying your flag, make sure it is up to standard: clean with no tears, rips or shredding.

  • Raise it briskly and lower it slowly and ceremoniously. Salute it while doing so. The salute is held until the flag is unsnapped from the halyard or through the last note of the National Anthem, whichever is the longest. What a meaningful moment to have with your family and friends, as we celebrate our nation’s independence.

  • To salute, all persons come to attention. Those in uniform give the appropriate formal salute. Citizens not in uniform salute by placing their right hand over the heart, and men with hats should remove them and hold them to the left shoulder, hand over the heart.

  • When lowering the flag, make sure no part of it touches the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms. To store the flag, fold it neatly and ceremoniously.

  • In ordinary times, the flag is to be displayed only between sunrise and sunset. It should be illuminated if displayed at night. Most homeowners use their porch lights.

  • The flag should be flown in fair weather, unless the flag is designed for inclement weather use.

  • When the flag is displayed from a staff projecting from a window, balcony, or a building, the union (stars) should be at the peak of the staff.

  • When displaying the flag against a wall, vertically or horizontally, the flag's union should be at the top, to the flag's own right, and to the observer's left

  • The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, tablecloth or drapery.

  • It should never be drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, is always to be arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below for decoration in general.

  • Do not use the flag as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

  • If flying your flag with flags of states, communities, or societies, the flag of the United States is always placed in the position of honor - to its own right.- The other flags may be smaller but none may be larger.- No other flag ever should be placed above it.- The flag of the United States is always the first flag raised and the last to be lowered.

  • Always keep your flag clean to represent the ideals it stands for. Some dry cleaners will clean the US Flag without charge. Check with yours to see.

When a flag becomes ragged, it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country. It should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner. You can check with your local legion post or a local boy/girl scout troop, if you’re not comfortable with fire. Most offer free flag retirement services.

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