2012-06-08 / Community

Rules For The Use Of The American Flag

By Howard Schwach

June 14 is Flag Day, the day set aside to honor our symbol of American freedom.

It is also the day set aside to educate the nation’s residents about the flag and how it should be used. What is a Flag?

According to the Flag Code, a flag is defined as any object “by which the average person seeing the same without deliberation may believe the same to represent the flag.” The American Flag, however, is immediately recognizable to all Americans and to many of those foreigners who visit our nation. Because our flag is our National Ensign and represents our nation, there are certain rules and regulations as to how it is utilized and how it is honored. How to Fold the Flag

The flag should be folded in half, width-wise, twice. If done by two, the blue field should be facing the bottom on the first fold. Fold up the triangle, starting at the striped end …and repeat … until only the end of the union is exposed. Then fold down the square into a triangle and tuck inside the folds. How to Display the Flag?

The flag of the United States of America, when displayed with another flag against a wall from a cross staffs, should be on the right, the flag’s own right, and its staff should be in front of the staff of the other flag.

When flags of states, cities, or 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 flag is halfmasted, both flags are half-masted, with the US flag at the midpoint and the other flag below.

When the flag of the United States is displayed from a staff projecting horizontally or at an angle from the window sill, balcony, or front of a building, the union of the flag should be placed at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff. 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.

When the flag is displayed in a manner other than by being flown from a staff, it should be displayed flat, whether indoors or out. When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag’s own right, that is, to the observer’s left. When displayed in a window it should be displayed in the same way, that is with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street.

The flag, when carried in a procession with another flag, or flags, should be either on the marching right; that is, the flag’s own right, or, if there is a line of other flags, in front of the center of that line.

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 and localities or pennants of societies are grouped and displayed from staffs.

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. The order of precedence for flags generally is Nation flags (US first, then others in alphabetical order), state (host state first, then others in the order of admission) and territories, military, then other.

When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium on or off a podium, the flag of the United States of America should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman’s or speaker’s right as he or she faces the audience. Any other flag so displayed should be placed on the left of the clergyman or speaker.

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

When hung in a window, place the blue union in the upper left, as viewed from the street. Frequently Asked Questions

My flag is old and ready to be retired. What should I do?

The Flag Code states, “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.” It is recommended that you contact your local VFW chapter and ask them for help in properly disposing of the flag.

Is it proper to wash a soiled flag or mend a torn flag?

If a flag is torn, it can be repaired, preferably by a professional or someone skilled in mending. If it is dirty, it can be washed, preferably by hand with a mild soap. If it is faded or tattered beyond repair, or dirty beyond cleaning, then it is time to replace the flag.

When should the flag be displayed?

The flag should be displayed on all days, 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; 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; Independence Day, July 4; Labor Day, first Monday in September; 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; the birthdays of states (date of admission); state holidays; and such other days as may be proclaimed by the President of the United States. Where should the flag be mounted as it relates to the front of a house?

It is traditionally flown either to the right or to the left of the front door. If you fly a second flag, then the US flag must be on the left of the other flag, as you approach the house.

How should citizens, those in uniform, and non-citizens salute the flag during the National Anthem?

Americans should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform, men should remove any non-religious headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.

Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute. Those who are not U.S. citizens should stand at attention.

What do the colors red, white and blue of the American Flag symbolize?

The red symbolizes valor and hardiness, white means purity and innocence, and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.

When should I fly my flag at halfstaff?

The flag should be flown at half-staff on Memorial Day (until noon); Peace Officer Memorial Day, May 15 (from sunset to sunrise); Patriot Day, September 11 (sunset to sunrise); Pearl Harbor Day, December 7 (sunrise to sunset); upon reliable information that a past or present President, Vice President, Chief Justice, or Speaker of the House has died.

Upon the death of a sitting or former President, Vice-President and others, how long does the flag fly at half-mast?

Thirty days from the death of the President or former President; ten days from the day of death for Vice President, Chief Justice of the US or retired Chief Justice of the US, Speaker of the House of Representatives; day of death until interment for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Secretary of an executive or military department, Former Vice President; Governor of a state, territory, or possession; day of death and the following day for member of Congress.

How do you drape the flag on a casket?

Closed Casket - the flag should be placed so that the union (blue field) is at the head and over the left shoulder of the deceased.

Half Couch (open) - the flag should be placed three layers to cover the closed half of the casket in such a manner that the blue field will be the top fold, next to the open portion of the casket on the deceased’s left.

Full Couch (open) - the flag should be folded in a triangular shape and placed in the center part of the head panel of the casket cap, just above the left shoulder of the deceased.

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