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12 Rules of American Flag Etiquette

flag etiquette

We’re reminded of this when the flag is flown proudly everywhere: Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Election Day, and Flag Day itself. Of course, not all patriotic celebrations are created equal.

The US Flag Code formalize and unifies the traditional ways in which we give respect to the flag, also contains specific instructions on how the flag is not to be used. In this article, you will see 12 lists of rules and guidelines for displaying the American flag and treating it with proper respect.

1:Display the flag only between sunrise and sunset on buildings and stationary staffs. The flag may be displayed for twenty-four hours if illuminated in darkness.

2:When placed on a single staff or lanyard, place the U.S. Flag above all other flags.

3:When flags are displayed in a row, the U.S. flag goes to the observer’s left. Flags of other nations are flown at same height. State and local flags are traditionally flown lower.

4:When used during a marching ceremony or parade with other flags, the U.S. Flag will be to the observer’s left.

5:On special days, the flag may be flown at half-staff. On Memorial Day it is flown at half-staff until noon and then raised.

6:When flown at half-staff, should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day. By “half-staff” is meant lowering the flag to one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff.

7:When the flag is displayed over the middle of the street, it should be suspended vertically with the union (blue field of stars) to the north in an east and west street or to the east in a north and south street.

8:When placed on a Podium the flag should be placed on the speaker’s right or the staging area. Other flags should be placed to the left.

9:When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall (or other flat surface), the union (blue field of stars) should be uppermost and to the flag’s own right, that is, to the observer’s left.

10:When displayed in a window it should be displayed in the same way — with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street.

11:When the flag is displayed on a car, the staff shall be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.

12:When the flag is used to cover a casket, it should be so placed that the union is at the head and over the left shoulder. The flag should not be lowered into the grave or allowed to touch the ground.

Quick list of Flag Etiquette Don’ts:

  • Don’t dip the U.S. Flag for any person, flag, or vessel.
  • Don’t let the flag touch the ground.
  • Don’t fly flag upside down unless there is an emergency.
  • Don’t carry the flag flat, or carry things in it.
  • Don’t use the flag as clothing.
  • Don’t store the flag where it can get dirty.
  • Don’t use it as a cover.
  • Don’t fasten it or tie it back. Always allow it to fall free.
  • Don’t draw on, or otherwise mark the flag.
  • Don’t use the flag for decoration. Use bunting with the blue on top, then white, then red.

The Salute

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 head cover should remove it and hold it to left shoulder, hand over the heart. Members of organizations in formation salute upon command of the person in charge.

THE FAMILY PRESENTATION

Each service branch of the American military has a different speech when presenting the flag to the deceased’s family. Almost all of them are presented on behalf of the President of the United States and the country. This practice is an important part of the military honors process.

The Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem

The pledge of allegiance should be rendered by standing at attention, facing the flag, and saluting.
When the national anthem is played or sung, citizens should stand at attention and salute at the first note and hold the salute through the last note. The salute is directed to the flag, if displayed, otherwise to the music.

The Flag in Mourning

To place the flag at half-staff, hoist it to the peak for an instant and lower it to a position half way between the top and bottom of the staff. The flag is to be raised again to the peak for a moment before it is lowered. On Memorial Day the flag is displayed at half-staff until noon and at full staff from noon to sunset.

The flag is to be flown at half-staff in mourning for designated, principal government leaders and upon presidential or gubernatorial order.

When used to cover a casket, the flag should be placed with the union at the head and over the left shoulder. It should not be lowered into the grave. 

HOW TO PROPERLY DISPOSE OF AN AMERICAN FLAG

  • When the flag is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem, it should be destroyed in a dignified and ceremonious fashion, preferably by burning. The American Legion holds an annual ceremony to retire old or worn flags; contact your local chapter if you are not able to dispose of the flag yourself.

What time of day can I display the flag?

Customarily, the flag should be displayed only from sunrise to sunset. However, the flag can be displayed 24 hours a day if it’s properly illuminated at night.

How does the weather affect when I display the flag?

The flag shouldn’t be displayed during inclement weather, except when an all-weather flag is used.

Are there certain days when the flag should be displayed?

The flag is supposed to be displayed every day, but especially on:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Inauguration Day
  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday
  • Lincoln’s Birthday
  • Washington’s Birthday
  • National Vietnam War Veterans Day
  • Easter Sunday
  • Mother’s Day
  • Armed Forces Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Flag Day
  • Father’s Day
  • Independence Day
  • National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day
  • Labor Day
  • Constitution Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Navy Day
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day.

Want to learn more? This short video will help you learn how to properly display and respect the United States Flags.

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