Flying an American flag outside of your home or business is one way many choose to show their national pride. Displaying the American flag comes with many responsibilities. The flag should be treated with the utmost respect at all times. Etiquette has been designed to ensure that the flag remains a stalwart symbol of the American people. The following guidelines will help you to show off your American style with the respect and gratitude that you feel deep within your heart.
Choosing the Right Flag for the Job
American flags come in several fabric choices. Each material has its advantages and disadvantages in certain environments. Selecting the flag in the most appropriate material for where you want to use it will ensure that it will remain vibrant and durable for many years to come. Making an informed selection, will keep the red, white and blue flying proudly.
Nylon is the lightest flag material available. It is also the least expensive. While it can be flown outside in a slight breeze, it is not durable enough to be flown outside for long periods of time. That makes nylon flags not the most appropriate choice for outdoor display or on vehicles such as auto, boats or RVs. While they are shiny and the colors are vibrant, lightweight nylon flags will not last as long as other fabrics when used outdoors. They are more appropriate for indoor use or short term outdoor use in mild weather conditions.
2 Ply Polyester flags are the most durable flag for outdoor use. The material is heavier and able to better to handle varying winds and weather conditions. They can cost slightly more than nylon but the durability increases the longevity when using it outdoors. On the downside, the color may not be as shiny or vibrant as nylon. However, flags made out of 2 ply polyester hold their color for a longer period of time than nylon flags.
Cotton is the traditional material for American flags. They, however, are not appropriate for outdoor use. Cotton flags do not wear well in weather situations, tend to be heavier and do not wick water away. While not suitable for outdoor use, this does make them perfect for indoor use or short term outdoor use, such as parades. Flags made from cotton material are generally costlier than those made from nylon or polyester but if they are cared for and used indoors, they will remain vibrant for many years.
Flag Etiquette: The Basics
The US Flag Code outlines the many ways that flags may not be used. These include:
- The flag should never be flown upside down except as a distress signal.
- It should never be tipped toward a person or an object.
- Flags should never be draped as a decoration or across a speaker’s podium. Bunting is used for these purposes.
- Flags should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform. The exception is for uniforms worn by police, fire or members of the military.
- The flag should not be used in advertising materials or on items that are designed to be single use.
- As a flag is lowered, the code stipulates that it should never be allowed to touch the ground. It should be neatly folded before being stored.
Retiring a Flag
Flags should be cleaned as required and attention be given to any needed repairs. After years of service, it will eventually become necessary to “retire” it. There are protocols to make sure that this is handled appropriately. Many American Legion posts hold annual flag burning ceremonies to ensure that flags are retired in a respectful and dignified manner. Boys and Girl Scout troops in many areas also often perform this service. June 14 th, Flag Day, is when many of the ceremonies are held. Contact organizations in your area to see if they perform this service and when.
Flying a Flag Outdoors
- When an American flag is displayed on the outside of a building on a flagpole, the field of stars should always be at the top of the pole unless it is being flown at half-mast.
- If the flag is displayed along with other flags on the same flag pole, the American flag should always be the highest.
- If the flag is to be hung in the street, it should be hung vertically with the field of stars in the northern or eastern position.
- If the flag is flown with other flags on separate poles, the American flag should always have the position of honor. No other flag should be larger than the US flag. The other flags may be smaller, though.
Raising and Lowering the US Flag
Typically, the US flag should be raised and lowered each day between sunrise and sunset. It should be raised rapidly in the morning but then lowered slowly and with respect at the end of the day. If it is to be displayed at night, it should be well-lit.
Indoor Display of the American Flag
- If the flag is used during a meeting or a sanctuary, the American flag should always be to the right of the speaker or the podium. All other flags can be placed on the left side.
- If a group of flags are presented together, the US flag should be centered and in the highest position.
- When displaying a flag horizontally, such as on a wall, the field of stars should be at the top. When displayed vertically, the field of stars should be to the right.
Properly Displaying the Flag During Times of Mourning
The directive to fly flags at half-staff are given by the US president or state governor during times of mourning such as following a tragedy or death of a prominent person. When the flag is raised, it should be raised quickly to full staff. Then, it should be lowered slowly to the mid-point of the flagpole. American flags are also flown at half-staff on the morning of Memorial Day as a show of respect for the sacrifices of those who have served the country. At noon on Memorial Day, the flag is raised to the full staff position.
Flags used to drape a casket should have the field of stars over the head and left shoulder of the casket. It should be removed and properly folded prior to the casket being lowered.
How to Fold an American Flag
- Two people hold the flag open by its four corners. It is then folded once lengthwise.
- The flag is then folded lengthwise again with the field of stars remaining in view on the top.
- Starting with the stripes end, a triangular fold is made.
- A second triangular fold is the made by folding across to the other side.
- This folding process continues until only the field of stars is seen.
- The flag is now ready for proper storage.
We hope that these guidelines and information help you to select and enjoy your American flag for many years to come. Flying the flag proudly reminds every American of the strength of the US and those who serve her.