Do You Know Your U.S. Flag Etiquette?

Tomorrow, June 14, is the day designated as Flag Day. It is a day when we consider the flag of the United States of America. You might not realize, though, that there is a Flag Code — and this code puts forward proper flag etiquette. If you are interested in showing proper respect to this symbol of our nation, here are some hints for proper U.S. flag etiquette:

Displaying the Flag

When you display the flag, there are some points of etiquette to follow. Realize that when raising and lowering the U.S. flag along with a group of other flags, it should be the first one up and the last one down. Do not place any other flag above the U.S. flag. The only exception is when a Navy chaplain is conducting services for Navy personnel at sea. During the service, the church pennant may be flown above the U.S. flag on the same pole. When displayed with other countries’ flags, all are flown at the same height, on separate poles, and are the same size. These flags should be raised and lowered at the same time. Any state flag may be flown at the same height as the U.S. flag on separate poles (on the same pole, the U.S. flag should be higher), but the U.S. flag should be placed in the position of honor. Many displays, though, place the state flags lower in deference to the U.S. flag.

If you are not displaying the flag on a pole, it should be hung carefully. When hanging over the middle of the street, the flag’s union (the blue field with stars) should be at the north or the east. When hanging from a window, the union should appear at the observer’s left, and be hanging flat, either vertically or horizontally. The flag should never be used as bunting.

Things to Avoid When Showing Respect to the U.S. Flag

You might be surprised at the items considered “rude” when it comes to the U.S. flag. It is important to note that the U.S. Flag Code is not something that is enforced as law. However, if you want to show proper decorum with the flag, you will refrain from the following:

  • Letting any part of the flag touch the ground.
  • Dipping the flag to a person or thing. (You can fly the flag upside down as a distress signal.)
  • Using the flag in advertising.
  • Using the flag as drapery, including covering a podium or desk.
  • Embroidering on the flag, or placing marks, insignia or other figures on the flag.
  • Using the flag as part of a costume or athletic uniform. (A flag patch may be worn on the arm of patriotic organizations — such as the Boy Scouts — or by military, police and fire personnel.)
  • Using the flag motif on items meant to be thrown out after temporary use, such as napkins, plates, and boxes.
  • Using the flag to carry other items, or hold other items.

There is a prescribed method for folding and storing the flag, as well as for caring for the flag. It should be cleaned and mended as needed. There is also a method for disposing of a flag. A flag that is damaged beyond repair, or that is ready to be retired, should be burned with proper dignity. There are community groups (especially American Legion Posts) that offer this ceremony regularly.


Flag Code

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