I wrote about flag etiquette a few years back and I explained in-depth the proper procedures for flying Old Glory. Because I've noticed people are again violating the spirit of the U.S. Flag Code, I decided to update my original feature story and republish it.
Here is a question most American citizens cannot answer: there is only one place Old Glory is never flown at half-staff. Do you know the answer? Email your answer to email@example.com and I'll email you back telling you if you're correct and, if not, what the correct answer is).
I'm not trying to embarrass anyone, but a bunch of my friends and acquaintances attended a political fundraising dinner a while back in Kingman and none of them noticed the American flag was located in the wrong position. There was even one U.S. congressman, an Arizona state senator, an Arizona state representative and even the Arizona state Republican party chairman in attendance, in addition to numerous local elected officials and dignitaries.
I am amazed everyone was having so much fun visiting with each other that they didn't even notice the improper placement of the American flag. I didn't attend the event, but when I saw a photo someone had posted on a social media outlet with the flag in the background, I immediately knew it was wrong.
Since there may some lingering questions about the proper display and placement of the American flag, I decided to again give everyone a lesson on the U.S. Flag Code.
I don't know about you, but during my various treks throughout Mohave County and since the beginning of this year, it's become paradoxical in that I have noticed many people wanting to show their pride by choosing to fly the Stars and Stripes, but many of them are unknowingly violating the provisions of the U.S. Flag Code.
Many patriotic Mohave County residents have been hoisting American flags to show their support, respect and their pride in America. However after "running" the flag up their poles, it is sad they quickly forget it's up there.
When people choose to fly the American flag, they must remember no disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America.
Old Glory is the great emblem and symbol of our nation and the essence of freedom. It represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.
This U.S. Flag Code is the guide for all handling and display of the Stars and Stripes. It does not impose penalties for misuse of the United States flag. Basically there are no flag police, but common sense should and must prevail.
Torn and tattered
The biggest violation of flag etiquette is when individuals, county buildings and businesses choose to fly the flag when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display. This is the time when Old Glory should be replaced with a fresh new one and the tattered flag destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.
You personally don't have to destroy the old, tattered flag. Most military service agencies and fraternal organizations are willing to provide a fitting disposal of all American, state and POW flags.
There are some basic laws covered in the United States Code, Title 4, Chapter 1 that govern how the American flag should be displayed.
It is the universal custom to only display the flag from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flag poles in the open. However, when an individual wants to fly the flag 24 hours a day to show his or her patriotism, it should be properly illuminated during the hours of darkness. That doesn't mean you have to have a 500 watt light shining on it; it only says it should be properly illuminated.
When the flag is hoisted onto a flag pole, it should be run up briskly and when taking it down, it should be lowered ceremoniously.
The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement, except when an all-weather flag is displayed.
No other flag or pennant should be placed above, or if on the same level, to the left of the American flag. The American flag should always be flown in the superior prominence of honor. An example of properly displaying the flag is if a person is looking toward a building, stage or podium, then the American flag should be always be displayed on the left.
If the flag is displayed from a staff projecting horizontally or at an angle from the window sill, balcony or front of a building, the union or blue portion of the flag should be at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half mast.
If the flag is to be flown in the half-staff position, it should be hoisted completely up to the top of the flag pole for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. When the flag is to be taken down at sunset, it should be hoisted to the top of the flag pole prior to being lowered for the day.
On Memorial Day, the flag should be displayed at the half-staff position only until noon, and then raised to the top of the flag pole.
Old Glory at half-staff
There has been numerous questions recently as to who can actually authorize the flying of Old Glory at half-staff.
According to the Flag Code, the president of the United States, a state's governor and/or the mayor of the District of Columbia are the only individuals authorized to order the U.S. flag lowered to half-staff.
If everyone were to half-staff Old Glory at will, the symbolic value of that honor would be lost. Another option is to display black crepe near the entrance to your building, perhaps with a photograph of the former mayor, firefighter, police officer, etc.
The president is authorized to half-staff the U.S. flag by proclamation upon the death of principal figures of the U.S. government and the governor of a state, territory or possession, as well as in the event of the death of other officials or foreign dignitaries.
The Flag Code authorizes a governor to half-staff the U.S. flag upon the death of a present or former official of the government of the state, or the death of a member of the Armed Forces from that state who dies while serving on active duty. The mayor of a city is not authorized to direct Old Glory to be flown at half-mast, and a school isn't authorized to fly their American flag at half-mast for a former student that may have been killed in war.
As previously stated, only the president, the governor of a state and the mayor of the District of Columbia are the individuals authorized to make that decision.
Many recommend that if an employee of a city passes away and or a former student of a school passes away in combat, the city or school flags should be flown at half-staff in remembrance of that individual.
When the flag is displayed in a window, the flag should be displayed with the union to the left of the observer in the street.
If the flag is to be displayed over the middle of the street, it should be suspended vertically with the union to the north on an east-to-west street and to the east on a north-to-south street.
The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.
Do's and don'ts
The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water or merchandise.
The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free. This portion of the Flag Code is often violated during football games when people carry the giant American flag down the field.
The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding or drapery, and the flag should never have placed upon it, or on any part of it, any mark, insignia, letter, work, figure, design, picture or drawing of any nature.
The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.
I know some might question the two aforementioned statements because there are numerous articles of clothing fashioned or designed after Old Glory and they're various alleged patriotic items, but that does not make it technically legal because someone has the item for sale. Yes, there are various American flags for sale that have drawings and other designs on them, but that also doesn't make them appropriate.
The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled or damaged in any way.
The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.
When a flag is displayed on a car, the staff should be fixed firmly to the chassis and clamped to the right fender.
The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying or delivering of anything.
No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen and members of patriotic organizations.
The flag is considered a living thing, therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.
When Old Glory is used to cover a casket, it should be done so with the union at the head and over the left shoulder. It should be noted that the flag should not be lowered into the grave or be allowed to touch the ground.
During a ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when a flag is passing in a parade or in review, all persons present other than those in uniform should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over their heart. Those present in uniform should render the military salute.
When not in uniform, individuals should remove their hat and hold it over their hearts with their right hand. The salute to the flag in a moving column or parade should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.
Veterans go ahead and salute the flag today or any other day it passes you in a parade or celebration, even if you're not in uniform. A change in the U.S. Flag Code now allows both active and former servicemen and women to salute the flag without wearing uniforms and a hat.
However, for those veterans and active servicemen and women who prefer not to salute Old Glory while they are out of uniform, they should still stand at attention, remove their hat and place their right hand over their heart.
And last but not least, when our residents choose to fly Old Glory, they should display it properly and let all know they are full of pride and patriotism.
For further information about Old Glory and the proper respect it so justly deserves, visit http://www.aflag.com/us_code.asp.
God bless America, our civilians and our present and former service personnel who are now or have been stationed around the world defending freedom so we can enjoy it on a daily basis.