American Flag Etiquette
We often take for granted the beauty, dedication, and all the lives that were lost defending and honoring the American flag. The American flag is a symbol of freedom and what unites us as a nation. When Betsy Ross sewed stripes of red and white fabric together and added a block of blue fabric and thirteen white stars on top of it, did she know she was creating a banner that would serve as a symbol of courage and honor that would inspire patriotism throughout an entire nation? Because of this flag’s significance, the US Flag Code has established regulations for handling Old Glory in order to treat it with the utmost respect. In this article we will take a closer look at American flag Etiquette and the meaning behind the actions.
Etiquette on Displaying the American Flag
There are specific directions and American flag etiquette on how to display and how to not display the American Flag. You’re supposed to put it up at sunrise and bring it down at sunset. However, Old Glory can be left up all night as long as there is a light shining on it while it’s dark. Sometimes the American Flag is displayed with other flags, but there is a very specific order for how to fly multiple emblems. When displaying banners vertically on a single flagpole, Old Glory is always on top, with state flags and military flags below it. When multiple ensigns are being flown horizontally, the Star-Spangled Banner should be on the observer’s far left. If international flags are being flown alongside it, they can be hoisted to the same height as the Red, White, and Blue, but local and state emblems should be flown at a lower height. If flags will be displayed on a podium, the U.S.A. flag is always on the right of the speaker with all other flags being displayed to the left of the speaker.
Sometimes, the Stars and Stripes is flown at half-staff, also known as half-mast. This is usually done in remembrance of a certain event, like Pearl Harbor or the 9/11 attacks. It can also be flown on days of national or international tragedies, like the Paris and Brussels bombings or the deaths of world leaders and dignitaries. On Memorial Day, the colors are flown at half-staff until noon at which point they are hoisted to full-staff. When flying the Star-Spangled Banner at half-mast, the flag is raised all the way up the flagpole and then lowered to half-staff.
When Old Glory is flown or being displayed on a flat surface, the blue section with 50 stars (called the union) should be at the observer’s top left corner with the red and white stripes under and to the right of the union. The Stars and Stripes are never to be flown or displayed upside down unless there is a national emergency.
American Flag Etiquette When Saluting
When the American flag is being honored, military members and veterans, whether wearing their uniforms or not, regard the Stars and Stripes with the military salute. Civilians are to face the colors with their right hands over their hearts. Hats and headpieces are to be removed, held in the right hand, and placed over the left shoulder so the right hand is still over the heart when honoring the Red, White, and Blue.
Flag Etiquette When Storing the Stars and Stripes
When the flag is being stored, there is a very specific fold, called the traditional triangle, used to store, protect, and respect the colors while they are not being flown. To begin, two people will hold the flag parallel to the floor. While handling the Star-Spangled Banner, precautions should be taken so that it doesn’t touch the ground. First, the bottom half of the flag (the stripes) will be folded lengthwise over the top (the union). The flag is folded over one more time, so the stars are showing again. The person holding the end with the stripes will take the corner held in their left hand and fold it parallel to the opposite edge. They repeat the fold until the length of the flag has been folded into a triangle. When completed, all anyone should see is blue with a triangle of four stars. Old Glory should not be stored where it can get soiled, and it should be kept in the best condition possible.
US Flag Etiquette When Retiring
When Old Glory is worn out, torn, or faded, the American flag etiquette for retiring a flag is a way of respectfully destroying the colors. First, the banner should be folded into the traditional triangle and burned. Everyone in attendance at the retirement ceremony should salute the colors, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and participate in a moment of silent reflection while the Stars and Stripes burn. Once the flag has been completely burned, the fire should be put out and the ashes buried.
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