Flag Etiquette

When do I fly my American Flag?

The simple answer is always, but especially on:

  • New Year’s Day, January 1
  • Inauguration Day, January 20
  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, third Monday in January
  • Lincoln’s Birthday, February 12
  • Washington’s Birthday, third Monday in February
  • Easter Sunday (variable)
  • Mother’s Day, second Sunday in May
  • Armed Forces Day, third Saturday in May
  • Memorial Day (half-staff until noon), the last Monday in May
  • Flag Day, June 14
  • Father’s Day, third Sunday in June
  • Independence Day, July 4
  • Labor Day, first Monday in September
  • Patriot Day, September 11
  • Constitution Day, September 17
  • Columbus Day, second Monday in October
  • Navy Day, October 27
  • Veterans Day, November 11
  • Thanksgiving Day, fourth Thursday in November
  • Christmas Day, December 25
  • and such other days as may be proclaimed by the President of the United States
  • the birthdays of States (date of admission) and on State holidays

For a printable list of dates on which you should fly your American flag in 2011, click here.

Displaying the Flag

It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.

The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.

The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement, except when an all-weather flag is displayed.

No other flag should be placed above or, if on the same level, to the right of the flag of the United States of America. No person shall display the flag of the United Nations or any other national or international flag equal, above, or in a position of superior prominence or honor to, or in place of, the flag of the United States at any place within the United States.

When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be of approximately equal size. International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace.

Short List of Order of Precidence (top to bottom)

  1. US flag
  2. POW/MIA
  3. state flags (host state first, then others in the order of admission)
  4. US territories (Washington DC, Puerto Rico, etc.)
  5. Military (in order of establishment: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard)
  6. other

The flag, 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. On Memorial Day the flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon only, then raised to the top of the staff. 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.

Can the governor order the US flag half-staffed for anyone he or she chooses?

No. Section 7m of the Flag Code authorizes a governor to half-staff the US flag upon the death of a present or former official of the government of the state, or the death of a member of the Armed Forces from that state who dies while serving on active duty.

Respect for flag

No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.

The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.

The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.

The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.

The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.

The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.

The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.

The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

A recent change to federal law allows U.S. veterans and military personnel not in uniform to render the military-style hand salute during the playing of the national anthem. This change was part of the 2009 Defense Authorization Act, which President Bush signed Oct. 14. Last year another change authorized veterans and military personnel not in uniform to render the military-style hand salute during the raising, lowering or passing of the flag. Prior to these changes veterans and military personnel not in uniform were required to follow the protocol for civillians and place their hand over their heart. These changes honor veterans by allowing them to be recognized for their contributions to our country.

A flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.

The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning. (For information on retiring a flag, please contact contact your local VFW Chapter your local Elks Lodge and ask them for help properly disposing of your flag.)

Source: US Flag Code & http://www.ushistory.org

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