Flag Etiquette

Flag Etiquette

Care & Respect
The U.S. Flag should always be treated with the utmost care and respect. Remember, the flag represents a living country and, as such, is considered a living symbol. Always display the flag with the blue union field up — never display the flag upside down, except as a distress signal. Always carry the flag aloft and free — never carry it flat or horizontally in processions or parades. Always keep the flag clean and safe.The flag is a symbol of us all — of all America. 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 deliver freedom, justice and opportunity to all Americans.

Platform on Floor
When displayed on the floor or on a platform, the flag is given the place of honor, always positioned behind the speaker and to the speaker’s right with other flags, if any, at the left. The “right” as the position of honor was established from the time when the “right hand” was the “weapon hand.” The right hand raised without a weapon was a sign of peace. The right hand, to any observer, is the observer’s left.

Final Groupings
The Flag of The United States of America should be at the center and at the highest point of the group when a number of flags of states, localities or societies are grouped for display.

Against A Wall
When displaying the flag against a wall, vertically or horizontally, the flag’s union (stars) should be at the top, to the flag’s own right, and the observer’s left.

Crossed Staffs
When another flag is displayed with the U.S. Flag and the staffs are crossed, the Flag of the United States is placed on its own right with its staff in front of the other flag.

Several Flags on one Pole
When several flags are flown from the same flag pole, the U.S. Flag should always be at the top — except during church services by naval chaplains at sea when the church pennant may be flown above the U.S. Flag on the ship’s mast. Flags of sovereign nations should not be flown on the same pole as the United States Flag but from separate poles. The United Nations Headquarters Building in New York City, where the U.N. Flag holds the most prominent position, is the only U.S. location exempted from this provision.

On a Staff From a Window
When the flag is displayed from a staff projecting from a window, balcony, or a building, the union should be at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff.

Across a Street
When the flag is hung on a wire or cable across a street, it should be hung vertically with the union to the north or east. If the flag is suspended over a sidewalk from a rope extending from a structure to a pole at the outer edge of the sidewalk, the flag should be displayed with the union (field of stars) furthest from the building.

On Separate Flag Poles with Other Flags
When flown with flags of States, communities, or societies on separate and adjacent flagpoles that are of the same height and in a straight line, the Flag of the United States is always placed in the position of honor — to its own right.

When a group of flags from States or localities or pennants of societies, the flag should be at the center and at the highest point. The other flags may be smaller but none may be larger. No other flag ever should be placed above the U.S. Flag. The Flag of the United States is always the first flag raised and the last to be lowered when flags are flown from adjacent flagpoles.

When hung with the national banner of other countries, each flag must be displayed from a separate pole of the same height. Each flag should be approximately the same size. They should be raised and lowered simultaneously. The flag of one nation may not be displayed above that of another nation.

Parades and Review
The flag should be in front of the marchers. At the moment the flag passes in a parade or procession, all persons should show respect by standing at attention facing the flag with their right hand over their hearts. Persons in uniform should face the flag and render their formal salute. During a parade it is appropriate to salute only the first United States Flag. When other flags are included, the United States Flag should be centered in front of the others or carried to their right.

Raising and Lowering
The flag should be raised briskly and lowered slowly and ceremoniously. Ordinarily it should be displayed only between sunrise and sunset. It should be illuminated if displayed at night. The Flag of the United States of America is saluted as it is hoisted and lowered. 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.

Inclement Weather
When the flag is flying and the weather turns to rain, sleet, snow or otherwise, it is proper to leave it flying if it is made of all-weather material. All-weather flags can be purchased. Flags made to fly in and withstand high wind situations may also be purchased.

Illumination of the Flag
If displayed at night, the flag must be properly illuminated. Proper illumination means that the stars and stripes can be seen readily from a reasonable distance.

To position the flag at half-staff, first hoist the flag to the peak of the staff for an instant and then, in respect for the deceased, lower it to the half-staff position — roughly halfway between the top and bottom of the staff. Before lowering it for the day, raise the flag again to the peak of the pole.

By order of the President, the flag shall be flown at half-staff upon the death of principal figures of the United States Government and the governor of a state, territory, or possession, as a mark of respect to their memory. In the event of the death of other officials or foreign dignitaries, the flag is to be displayed at half-staff according to U.S. Presidential instructions, or in accordance with recognized customs.

In the event of the death of a present or former official of the government, any state, territory, or possession may proclaim that the National Flag shall be flown at half-staff.

The flag shall be flown at half-staff for thirty days following the death of the President or a former President; ten days following the day of death of the Vice President, the Chief Justice or a retired Chief Justice of the United States, or the Speaker of the House of Representatives; from the day of death until interment of a former Vice president or the governor of a state, territory, or possession; and on the day of death and the following day for a member of Congress.

Covering a Casket
When used to cover a casket, the flag should be placed with the blue field covering the head and over the left shoulder. The flag should not be lowered into the grave or touch the ground at any time. The flag should never be used as the covering for a headstone or other statue or monument.

When taken from the casket, the flag should be formally and properly folded as a triangle with only the stars showing. Triangular plastic or glass storage cases on a wood base may be purchased to hold the folded flag. The deceased may be shown respect by attaching an inscribed plaque of recognition on the base of the storage case.

Draping the casket with a United States Flag is an honor reserved for veterans or highly regarded state and national figures. Several organizations have defined the meaning of each fold when folding a flag from a casket. These are unique and original with each organization. None are official or included in the Flag Code. For more information please contact the National Flag Foundation.

Folding the Flag
To properly fold the U.S. Flag, follow these steps:

1. Two people face each other, each holding one end of the flag. Stretch it horizontally at waist height and fold in half lengthwise.
2. Fold the flag in half lengthwise again, the union (stars) should be on the top.
3. One person holds the flag by the union while the other starts at the opposite end by making a triangular fold.
4. Continue to fold in the flag in triangles from the stripes end until only the blue field with stars is showing.

Gold Fringe on the Flag
Gold fringe frequently decorates the Flag of the United States, but it has no known record of symbolism and no meaning in national or international protocol. Fringe has long and frequently been used on military and organizational flags; it remains an embellishment without meaning. It is purely a decorative and optional addition. The Flag Code makes no reference to the use of fringe, cord and tassel, and no law or regulation either requires or prohibits the placing of gold fringe on the flag.

Retiring the Flag From Service
“The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem of display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” (The United States Flag Code)

The flag should be burned in private at a private, non-public location.

In many American communities, one or more organizations render an important community service by collecting and overseeing the proper disposal of old, worn, tattered, frayed and/or faded U.S. Flags.

For information in your community try the Boy Scouts of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, or the American Legion. If they provide a flag retirement service the flag can be dropped off and they will take care of the ceremony.

A flag retirement ceremony may also be a family activity. It provides an opportunity to teach and instruct. If retiring the flag as a family the following steps might be considered:
1. Gather the family around. Raise the flag on the pole or staff or hold it aloft by hand.
2. Call the group to attention salute and recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
3. The leader might say something like “This flag has served its nation well and long. It is now worn to a condition in which it should no longer be used to represent the nation. We pay honor to this flag for the service it has rendered.”
4. Fold the flag according to procedures explained on this site
5. Give the flag to the group leader who will burn it until it is completely consumed.

When to Fly the Flag
The flag may be displayed on any, or every day, subject to the conventions explained elsewhere on this site. On the days below it is particularly appropriate to display the flag.

New Year’s Day – January 1
Martin Luther King Day – Third Monday in January
Inauguration Day – January 20
Lincoln’s Birthday – February 12
Washington’s Birthday – February 22
Presidents’ Day – Third Monday in February
Easter Sunday
Mother’s Day – Second Sunday in May 
Peace Officers Memorial Day (half-staff) – May 15
Armed Forces Day – Third Saturday in May
National Maritime Day – May 22
Memorial Day (half-staff until noon) – Last Monday in May
Flag Day – June 14
Army Day – June 14
Independence Day – July 4
Korean War Veterans Day (half-staff) – July 27
Labor Day — First Monday in September
V-J Day September 2nd
Patriots Day (half-staff) – September 11th
Citizenship Day – September 17
Air Force Day – September 17
Constitution Day — September 17
POW/MIA Recognition Day – September 21
Columbus Day – October 12
Navy Day – October 27
National Election Day – First Tuesday in November
Marine Corps Day – November 10
Veterans Day – November 11
Thanksgiving Day – Fourth Thursday in November
National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (half-staff) – December 7
Christmas Day – December 25
State and Local Holidays

Your state’s birthday (date of admission to the Union) and such other days as may be proclaimed by the President of the United States.

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