The Etiquette of Flying Old Glory

With Memorial Day just around the corner, Flag Day on June 14th and July 4th right after that, the start of summer is the perfect time to remember the do’s and don’ts of properly displaying the American flag.

On any occasion, flying the flag is a gesture that communicates pride and support for the nation. Before you break out Old Glory, get familiar with the right way to respectfully display this symbol of patriotism, along with etiquette for other patriotic symbols including the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem.

You Don’t Have to Wait for a Holiday to Fly the Flag

The flag can be flown every day of the year, from sunrise to sunset, although it’s customary to take it down during bad weather. If you leave it up at night, be sure to illuminate it so anyone viewing it can clearly see it’s an American flag.

Flag Poles are Optional

According to the U.S. Flag Code, the flag can be displayed on a wall or window either horizontally or vertically. Either way, the field of stars should appear in the uppermost corner on the left of the person viewing the flag.

Handle the Flag With Respect at All Times

The flag should never touch the ground. When it’s time to store the flag, carefully fold it. Keep it protected and avoid letting it become soiled or damaged. Do not use the flag as a sling to carry items.

Don’t Use the Flag as Decoration

Never use the stars and stripes as a table cloth or a cover for a desk or podium. Avoid wearing it as a beach cover-up or on a pair of shorts.

On Memorial Day, Fly the Flag at Half-Staff Until Noon

This is a symbol of remembrance to Americans who died in military service. Flying a flag at half-staff involves raising it to the top of the flag pole for a moment before lowering it to the half-way point of the pole. If your flag can’t be lowered, an acceptable alternative is to attach a black ribbon or streamer the same width and length as a stripe on the flag – a mourning ribbon – to the stop of the flag. On a wall-mounted flag, attach three black mourning bows to the top edge of the flag, one in the center and one at each corner.

Wear the Flag Proudly - Within Reason

According to the American Legion, a veterans’ service organization, clothing with the flag on it is fine; clothing made from an actual flag is not. That said, the U.S. Flag Code advises that the flag should not be used for any advertising purpose and should not appear on items such as napkins or other paper items that are designed to be discarded after temporary use.

Properly Display Multiple Flags

If your display includes flags of other cities or states on the same staff, the American flag is always raised first, positioned above the other flags. When displayed with flags of other nations, the flags should be displayed on separate poles, with all flags at the same height and of roughly the same size.

The National Anthem is a Call to Attention

At any public event where the national anthem is played, etiquette calls for you to stand silently with your hand over your heart and face the flag throughout the anthem. Men must always remove their hats; women may leave on formal hats but should remove baseball caps. Singing is optional. Silently standing at attention – no talking, eating or walking around – is required. The same rules apply when saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

When a Flag is Worn Out, it Should be Properly Discarded

This involves ceremoniously folding and completely burning the flag in its entirety in a dignified manner. There are also options for recycling flags, which is helpful since many flags today are made of nylon or polyester. Your local VFW post can provide assistance.

You may also like Honor a Soldier This Memorial Day. For more of Diane’s etiquette tips, visit her blog, connect with her here on Huff Post, “like” The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook, and follow her on Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. Buy her new book, Modern Etiquette for a Better Life.

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