Friday, May 13, 2011

Flag Flying Etiquette 101

There is etiquette for everything, including flying flags.

The original Star Spangled Banner: 
Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

When you have a famous flag with bits of it being torn off and given away as mementos, you're not going to have much left of that flag! But that's what happened to the original Star-Spangled Banner as well as many others. Hence, the US Flag Code was born.

The US Flag Code is the official document explaining:
• when to fly the American flag
• how to fly the flag
• how handle the flag
• what to do with an old flag 

Want to see the Code?
US Flag Code courtesy of Cornell University Law School

The Cheat Sheet for flying the flag:

1. Never let the flag touch the ground. Never. Ever.
It is considered very disrespectful as the flag is our national symbol and because so many have died defending it and what it stands for.

2. Never fly another flag higher than the US flag.
In point of fact, the American flag should fly above all others. In tricky diplomatic situations, well, this is when you need to read the Code!

3. Don't just throw an old flag out!

Technically, when a flag is too worn to fly, it is formally "retired" in a formal retirement ceremony. Each year (around Memorial Day, btw), local VA chapters or even local Boy Scout troops have a ceremony to correctly "retire" the flag.
Best bet: contact a local VA or Boy Scout Troop.  

4. How to raise and lower the flag
It generally takes 2 people so that it does not accidentally touch the ground (see #1). One clips the flag to the pole and then hoists it up while the other person holds the flag as it unfurls. It is taken down (generally at sunset) in the same way: One person lowers it. One person makes sure the flag does not touch the ground. Then it is folded. 

5. How to fold the flag
It's much easier to see it then to read about it so try this:
how to fold the American flag

6. The Official Flag Flying Holidays:
• New Year’s Day, January 1
• Inauguration Day, January 20
• Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, third Monday in January
• Lincoln’s Birthday, February 12
• Washington’s Birthday, third Monday in February
• Easter Sunday (variable)
• Mother’s Day, second Sunday in May
• Armed Forces Day, third Saturday in May
• Memorial Day (half-staff until noon), the last Monday in May
• Flag Day, June 14
• Father’s Day, third Sunday in June
• Independence Day, July 4
• National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day, July 27
• Labor Day, first Monday in September
• Constitution Day, September 17
• Columbus Day, second Monday in October
• Navy Day, October 27
• Veterans Day, November 11
• Thanksgiving Day, fourth Thursday in November 
• Christmas Day, December 25
• "and such other days as may be proclaimed by the President of the United States"
• the birthdays of States (date of admission)
• on State holidays 

Lady Liberty c. 1862
non-copy-righted photo

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