flag of the United States
living symbol that
calls to our spirit, reminding us of the greatness of America. We
uphold it because it is the standard of honor under which we
The proper name of the nation's symbol is the United States Flag,
it is sometimes referred to as Old Glory.
We view the flag with devotion, for it represents our
national heritage of noble deeds, splendid accomplishments and untold
sacrifices that established the moral character of our country. Our
flag is a symbol that makes our past one
with the present and makes the present a foundation for tomorrow.
signifies a people dedicated to liberty, justice and freedom for all.
our companion around the world. It summons confidence on sight. There
a magic in its folds that continually renews the hope that this nation,
under God, will long be an example everywhere for all who love freedom
honor. We give homage to the flag because it stands for the
earnest, and unselfish experiences of our people who have given us
as a nation and pride as citizens. We respect our flag because we
respect for our fellow citizens, and because our love for country is
symbolized by the flag. By honoring and saluting our flag we
respect and affection for our nation.
United States Flag Code, first adopted in 1923 and amended through
2001, prescribes flag etiquette for a variety of circumstances ensuring
that our national symbol is treated properly. Each military
branch has it own flag code of
etiquette. Please consult the applicable regulations on matters
dictionary defines respect as: “An act of giving particular attention;
a high or special regard; the quality or state of being esteemed,
considered worthy of high regard; to have reverence, and to refrain
from interfering with.” An older definition is, “to look back.”
Synonyms are: Admiration, honor, high opinion, consideration and, “to
and the Flag
flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner
whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as
cushions or handkerchiefs;
printed on paper napkins, boxes or anything that is intended to be
discarded. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or
Halyard from which the flag is flown.” (U.S Code, Title 4, Chapter1,
Section 8(i)), however, the display of a corporate flag is not
considered to be advertising.
respect is the base and foundation of all flag etiquette decisions.
When millions of Americans display the Flag there are many violations
of flag etiquette and protocol. Etiquette-savvy citizens should
attempt to teach the uninformed rather than judge them. 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
union (stars) in the upper left. Never display the flag upside
down, except as an extreme distress signal.
carry the flag aloft and free. Do not carry it flat or
horizontally in processions or parades. The exception is carrying
very large flags in a parade that are too big to be flown from a staff
or pole. Always keep the
flag clean. Keep it safe from those who would not respect it and
those who would not know how to, such as a young child.
an ‘American,’ not a political symbol. It is a symbol that each
should respect, for it represents the honor, courage and sacrifice of
who sustained adversity and death to provide freedom, justice and
opportunity to all Americans. Contrary to other world flags, the U.S.
Flag is the flag of the citizens; people of all ages who make America
the world’s leading
example of freedom and free enterprise.
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,
to the left from the audience’s perspective. Other flags, if any,
are positioned to the U.S. Flag’s left, (or to the right, from the
audience’s perspective). The "right" as the position of honor has
evolved from antiquity when the "right hand" was the "weapon
hand." The right
hand raised without a weapon was a sign of peace. The right hand to an
observer appears to be on the observer's left.
ago there was a practice (generally in churches) of placing the flag to
the left of the speaker, which would appear to the right from the
audience’s perspective. Protocol now calls for the flag to be
placed to the left of the audience, commensurate with the greatest
number of observers. If there is a
flag at an exit of an assembly room, it should be placed to the left of
door, which positions it to the viewers left when leaving the room.
The United States of America should be at the center and highest point
displayed with a group of other flags.
flag should not be draped over the hood, top, sides or back of a
vehicle, railroad train or a boat. When the flag is displayed on
a motorcar, the staff shall be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped
to the right (passenger side)
fender.” (U.S. Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 7(b)).
should be removed from vehicles at night since they cannot be properly
illuminated. The U.S. Code states, “When a patriotic effect is
desired, the flag may
be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of
darkness.” (U.S. Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 6(a)).
Furniture and Flags
flag should not be emblazoned on items such as lawn chairs, paper
products, yard goods and furniture. (U.S. Code, Title 4, Chapter
1, Section 8 (d)). “The flag should never be used as wearing
apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn
back or 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.”
flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding,
carrying or delivering anything. The flag should never be used
for advertising purposes
in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on
such as cushions or handkerchiefs. It should not be printed on
napkins, boxes or anything intended to be discarded. No part of
flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. A flag
patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen,
and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents our
country and is therefore considered a living thing.
position of the U.S. Flag on a mast which also has a gaff is a
controversial one. According to long-standing maritime tradition,
the gaff is the position
of honor on a ship and thus is where the U.S. Flag should be
Yachting organizations, following nautical tradition, erect land-based,
gaff-rigged flagpoles and fly the U.S. Flag at the gaff as well: The
is considered to be the position of honor.
U.S. Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 7(f), which postdates this
maritime tradition, states that, “When flags of States, cities,
localities or pennants of societies are flown on the same Halyard with
the flag of the United States, the latter should always be at the
peak. When the flags are flown from adjacent staffs, the flag of
the United States should be hoisted first and lowered last. No
such flag or pennant may be placed above the flag of the
United States or to the United States flag’s right.”
other flag or pennant should be placed above or to the right of the
flag of the United States of America, except during church services
conducted by naval chaplains at sea, when the church pennant may be
flown above the flag during church services for Navy personnel.
No person shall display the flag of
the United Nations or any international flag equal to or higher than
flag of the United States within the United States, its territories and
possessions. The United Nations flag may fly in the position of
honor at the headquarters of the United Nations only. (U.S. Code, Title
4, Chapter 1, Section 7(c)).
the U.S. Flag is displayed on a gaff-rigged pole, organizations and
must determine which manner of display will best convey the love, honor
and respect that the Flag deserves.
a flag at a private residence, house or apartment, all of the relevant
guidelines in the Flag Code should be followed. The flag should
be flown at night only if illuminated and in inclement weather only if
made of all-weather
material. The flag should be clean and without tears, rips or
The flag may also be hung vertically from a window, roof eave, or other
structural overhang, provided that the union (stars) is positioned in
the upper left as an observer would see it.
displaying the flag against a wall (vertically or horizontally), the
(stars) should be at the upper left as an observer would see it (U.S.
Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 7(i)).
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.
Flags on One Pole
several flags are flown from the same flag pole, the U.S. Flag should
at the top, except during church services by naval chaplains at sea
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
States Flag but from separate poles. The United Nations
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.
the flag is displayed as a lapel pin, it should be worn on the left
lapel, nearest the heart.
a Staff from a Window
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.
the Width of a Street
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.
Other Flags on Poles
the United States is always placed in the position of honor, to its own
right, when flown with flags of other States or communities on
adjacent, but separate flagpoles. All flagpoles must be the same
height and form a straight line. When displayed with a group of
flags from other States or societies, the flag should be at the center
and at the highest point. The other flags may be smaller but not
larger. The Flag of the United States is always the first flag
raised and the last flag lowered when flown from adjacent
flagpoles. When hung with the national banner of other countries,
flag must be displayed from a separate pole of the same height. Each
should be approximately the same size. They should be raised and
simultaneously. The flag of one nation may not be displayed above
of another nation.
the Flag on the Ground
the flag on a surface upon which people will walk, drive or engage in
activities that disrespectfully or meaninglessly touch the flag is not
of Precedence for Flag Display
order of precedence for flags is 1. National. 2. State. 3. Military in
creation date. 4. All others. The United Nations uses
order in its presentation of national flags so that no one country has
over another. Army Regulation 840-10 mandates that State flags
be displayed according to the date that each state was admitted to the
union. According to Department of Defense Directive 1005.8, the
prescribed precedence of military flags is determined by service
birthdays. The appropriate order is given below:
Birthday --14 June 1775
Marine Corps Birthday – 10 November 1775
Navy Birthday – 13 Oct 1775-Abolished
Feb 1781-Reinstated 7 Sep 1781
Air Force Birthday – 18 September 1947
*Coast Guard Birthday – 4 August 1790
of Defense Directive 1005.8 specifies that the Coast Guard falls under
Department of Transportation during peacetime. During wartime,
Coast Guard falls under the Department of Defense. During
the Coast Guard flag would proceed the Air Force in order of
Merchant Marine, Vietnam Veterans and POW/MIA flags can be displayed
following the military flags. The U.S. government did not
the Merchant Marines as a branch of the military and Merchant Marines
not given veterans’ status. It is appropriate to honor them as a
military branch and display their flag at the trailing end of the other
5 branch-of-service flags.
Veterans and POW/MIA flags can be reversed in order if desired.
Vietnam Veterans flag represents the living veterans among us from that
era. The POW/MIA flag represents those who can not be here.
Use your discretion on which flag to prioritize.
flag should be in front of all parades. At the moment the flag passes,
all persons should stand at attention and face 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
Flag. When other flags are included, the United States Flag should be
in front of the others or carried to their right. In a parade,
pass-and-review, color guard or similar setting, it is never
appropriate to dip the American flag. Neither will an American
Flag at any time for any reason touch the ground.
Decals and Vessels
the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform.
However, 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, a lapel flag pin should be
worn on the left lapel nearest the heart." (U.S. Code, Title 4,
Chapter 1, Section 8(j)).
International Civil Aviation organization decreed that flags painted on
face the direction of the flight, so as to be aerodynamically and
aesthetically correct. It was also recommend that flags or flag
decals on vehicles and flag patches on uniforms be so oriented.
The decals on military vehicles now show the union (stars) heading into
the direction of travel. That means that flag decals on the right
(passenger side) of military vehicles show the union on the upper right
side of the flag.
Patches on Army Uniforms
patches affixed to right shoulders of uniforms are reversed, so that
(stars) faces forward. The reversal was inspired by the age-old
of carrying flags into battle. When fastened to a standard, the
flag's union (stars) is always closest to the pole. A flag bearer
into the fray, then, would naturally lead with the stars.
official Army guidelines on the donning of flag patches add that the
forward-facing stars give "the effect of the flag flying in the breeze
as the wearer moves forward." That means that every soldier is
also a flag bearer, leading the headlong charge into battle.
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
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
whichever takes the longest.
is proper to leave an all-weather flag flying in rain, sleet or snow.
of the Flag
flag must be properly illuminated at night. Proper illumination
the stars and stripes can be seen readily from a reasonable
Flags on poles generally require a dedicated light. Flags on a
residential porch may require only ambient lighting. The stars and
stripes should be clearly visible from across the street.
the flag at half-staff, first hoist the flag to the peak of the staff
an instant and then lower it to the half-staff position, roughly
the top and bottom of the staff. Before lowering it for the day,
raise the flag to the peak of the pole first, then lower it.
the President, the flag shall be flown at half-staff upon the death of
principal figures of the United States Government, State Governors;
U.S. territories and possessions. In the event of the death of
foreign officials and dignitaries, the flag is to be displayed at
according to the U.S. President’s instructions, or in accordance with
the event of the death of a present or former government official, any
state, territory or possession may fly the National Flag at half-staff.
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
or the Speaker of the House of Representatives; from the day of death
interment of a former Vice president or Governor of a state, territory,
or possession and on the day of death for a member of Congress plus the
used to cover a casket or coffin, the flag should be placed with the
union (stars) 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, statue or monument. When
from the casket, the flag should be formally and properly folded as a
triangle with only the stars showing.
transparent storage cases with a wood base may be purchased from a flag
dealer to hold the folded flag. In mourning, the deceased may be shown
respect by attaching an inscribed plaque on the base of the storage
the casket with a United States Flag is an honor reserved for veterans
highly regarded state and national figures. Also see Flag Folding
Fringe on the Flag
frequently decorates the Flag of the United States, but it has no known
of symbolism and no meaning in national or international
Fringe has long and frequently been used on military and organizational
flags and remains an embellishment without meaning. It is purely a
and optional addition. The Flag Code makes no reference to the
of fringe, cord and tassel, and no law or regulation either requires or
the placing of gold fringe on the flag. Some conspiracy theorists
that the gold fringe was Alexander Hamilton’s attempt to federalize the
individual states during his era and that the gold fringe has “big
brother” implications today. In spite of Hamilton’s clearly
stated Federalist views, there is nothing in the current Flag Code to
support such sensationalist views.
Old and Worn Flags
Flag may be mended when torn and cleaned when dirty. It should
not be hemmed to the point that its measurements are no longer in
proportion. "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." The flag should be burned in a private
setting at a non-public location
according to the Flag Code.
many communities, one or more organizations will accept, collect and
oversee the proper disposal of old, worn, tattered, frayed or faded
U.S. Flags. Those organizations are not limited to: The Boy
Scouts of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and
the Girl Scouts of America. If a flag retirement service is
provided, your unserviceable flag can be dropped off and they will
conduct the Flag Retirement ceremony for you.
flag retirement ceremony may also be conducted as a family activity in
order to teach and instruct. If retiring the flag as a family, use the
Raise the flag on the pole or staff or hold it aloft by hand.
group to attention salute and recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the
The family leader should say something like, "This flag has served its
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."
flag according to the flag folding procedures.
flag to the group leader who will burn it until it is completely
Girl Scout Retirement Process
1: Keep the flag off the ground and cut out the Union (stars).
Step 2: Cut the stripes apart.
Step 3: With dignity, put the
stripes into the fire.
Step 4: Let the material burn
Step 5: Place the Union into the
fire and let it burn completely.
be done in a private ceremony. There may be appropriate music or
and comments about freedom and liberty or other topics dealing with the
flag as an American symbol.
Two people face each other, each holding one end of the flag. Stretch
it horizontally at waist height and fold in half lengthwise.
flag in half lengthwise again; the union (stars) should be on the top.
One person holds the flag by the union while the other starts at the
by making a triangular fold.
to fold in the flag in triangles from the stripes end until only the
field with stars is showing.
on the Flag
flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor
attached to it any
mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture or drawing of any
nature. (U.S. Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8(g)).
salute the flag, all persons come to attention. Those in uniform give
the appropriate salute as specified by each branch of service. Military
personnel not in
uniform and civilians salute by placing their right hand over their
Men wearing a head cover (hat, cap or other headwear) are to remove it.
Women may wear a head covering.
parades or reviews, at the moment the flag passes, each individual
should stand at
attention facing the flag and salute. The Flag of the United
is saluted as it is hoisted and lowered. The salute is held until the
is unsnapped from the Halyard or through the last note of the national
whichever lasts the longest.
the national anthem is played or sung: Citizens should stand at
attention and salute,
by placing their right hand over the heart at the first note, and hold
salute through the last note. The salute is directed to the flag if it
be seen, otherwise toward the music. If in uniform, the person should
in the formal manner. It is proper to salute wherever the national
is played, for instance, on a college campus, in a public park, in a
at a ball game, sports event, etc. To salute a flag in a moving
it is proper to start the salute as the flag enters your position and
when it is past.
Pledge of Allegiance should be recited by standing at attention, facing
and saluting. The Pledge was written to celebrate the 400th
anniversary of Columbus's voyage. The celebration plans resulted in
Columbus Day being designated a holiday for the whole country by
President Benjamin Harrison. The original Pledge was written in
August of 1882. The 23 words read as
follows: I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the republic for which
stands: One Nation indivisible, under God, with liberty and justice for
1923, the original verse was changed to, "I pledge allegiance to the
Flag of the United States of America." It was also decided, that
year, that everyone
should say the pledge with their right hands over their hearts. Then in
1954 Congress added, "under God," to the Pledge. It was pointed out
Abraham Lincoln had referred to the United States as, "This nation
God," in his "Gettysburg Address." In 1943 the Supreme Court of
United States ruled that: No citizen can be forced to recite 'The
of Allegiance,’ since the use of force clearly contradicts, “freedom
justice for all."
you see, by the dawn's early light, what so proudly we hailed at the
twilight's last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars,
thro' the perilous fight, o’er the ramparts we watched, were so
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof
the night that our flag was still there. Oh, say does that Star -
Banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
the shore dimly seen, thro' the mists of the deep, Where the foe's
haughty host in
dread silence reposes, What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering
steep, As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses? Now
catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam, in full glory reflected,
now shines on the stream; 'tis the Star - Spangled Banner; oh, long may
it wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
where is that band who so vauntingly swore that the havoc of war and
confusion a home and a country should leave us no more? Their
has wash'd out their foul footsteps' pollution. No refuge could
the hireling and slave from the terror of flight or the gloom of the
And the Star - Spangled Banner in triumph doth wave o’er the land of
free and the home of the brave.
it ever when free men shall stand, Between their loved homes and the
desolation; Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
the Power that has made and preserved us a nation! Then conquer
must, when our cause it is just, and this be our motto: "In God is our
and the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave o’er the land of the
and the home of the brave.
Fly the Flag
flag may be displayed every day, however, the following dates are
Year's Day - January 1
Luther King Day - Third Monday in January
Day - January 20
Birthday - February 12
Birthday - Third Monday in February
Day - Second Sunday in May
Officers Memorial Day (half-staff) - May 15
Forces Day - Third Saturday in May
Day (half-staff until noon) - Last Monday in May
Day - Third Sunday in June)
Day - July 4
Veterans Day (half-staff) - July 27
Day -- First Monday in September
Day - (half-staff) September 11
Day - September 17
Star Mothers Day - Last Sunday in September
Day - Second Monday in October
Day - First Tuesday in November
Day - November 11
Day - Fourth Thursday in November
Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (half-staff) - December 7
Day - December 25
as proclaimed by the President of the United States.
flag should be displayed daily on or near the main administration
building of every