In celebration of the 4th of July, I thought to feature an article about flag etiquette. So I contacted the American Legion where I am presently posted via the ‘Jacquée T. Writer in Residence expedition’ — in Paola Kansas — and asked for the details.
The gentlemen I met at the Legion retrieved two pamphlets to hand me, one published by the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, and another by the American Legion.
I perused the pamphlets to learn that, indeed there is an etiquette regarding our nation’s flag, yet ’tis not via a list of “five things,” “ten things” nor even “25 things.”
Etiquette for our nation’s flag is determined via an official Flag Code that is reverent to our nation’s history, to the people who have served in honor of this country, and to the freedom that this country represents.
There is no way to capture it all in an “etiquette” article. Yet here are highlights I would like to note, plus a quote from the American Legion pamphlet.
The American Flag design
• Our flag has 13 stripes, 7 red and 6 white to represent the original 13 states in the Union.
• It features a blue canton in the upper left corner, to represent the base of the Union.
• Today the flag has 50 Stars, each with one point up, to represent the states in the Union.
• The latest Star was officially made part of the flag on July 4th 1960, to officially include Hawaii in the Union.
This accounts for flags displayed on poles in front of public buildings, and displayed via a fixated staff on your own home.
• It is universal custom to display the flag from sunrise to sunset.
• However, especially for public buildings, if the flag is properly lighted after dark, it is acceptable keep the flag out.
• The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is stormy or severe, unless an all-weather flag is displayed.
Hoisting and Lowering of the Flag
• The flag should be hoisted briskly at sunrise, and lowered slowly and ceremoniously at sunset.
• When lowered, the flag is not to touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water or items.
Honoring the Flag
• During the Pledge of Allegiance, or National Anthem “The Star Spangled Banner,” stand at attention facing the flag, with right hand over heart. Men take off any non-religious headdress, and hold it over left shoulder, so hand is over heart.
• Persons in uniform render the military salute. Members of the Armed Forces not in uniform and veterans may also render the military salute.
Flag at half-staff
There is specific criterion for a flag to be flown at half-staff. Here are examples.
• Only specific members of government may order our National Flag to be flown at half-staff.
The President of the United States, and Governors of a state or territory may order a flag to be flown at half-staff. They do, essentially, to reflect the nation, or their state, in mourning over a recent death.
Only specific military leaders may order flags flown at half-staff to honor members of the military who died while actively serving.
• Our nation’s Flag is to be displayed at half-staff on specific national observances.
For example, Memorial Day. On this day the flag is to be flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon only, then raised briskly to the top of the staff until sunset, in honor of the nation’s battle heroes.
• When hoisting a flag for half-staff, raise it briskly to the top, then slowly down to half-staff position. When lowering the flag at the end of the day, bring it to the top of the pole, then lower it.
• “Half-mast” refers to a flag flying on a ship, and follows the same procedures.
Flag in motion
• When a flag is being carried through a procession, use the same etiquette depicted in “Honoring the Flag” as the flag passes you.
• Purchase a flag.
The American Legion offers flags for sale, all proudly made in the USA. Order your flag here.
• Accurate “Half-Staff.”
The American Flagpole and Flag Company offers e-mail notifications as to when to fly the Nation’s Flag at half-staff. To receive the notifications, sign up here.
• Disposing of a flag.
Flags that people don’t want anymore need to be properly disposed. There is an etiquette for this. And, oft local sources like the local library or veterans organizations offer services to properly tend to that for you. (See example at right.)
A quote to take with you.
Here is a portion of a sentiment shared on the American Legion pamphlet, titled RESPECT THE FLAG, by AlvineM. Owsley, Past National Commander:
“…. Other flags mean a glorious past, this flag a glorious future. It is not so much the flag of our fathers as it is the flag of our children, and of all children’s children yet unborn. It is the flag of tomorrow. It is the signal of ‘Good Time Coming.” It is not the flag of your king – it is the flag of yourself and of all your neighbors.”