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Displaying Your Patriotism: 7 Rules for Old Glory

house with American flag

With another flag-raising occasion upon us, it’s time to ask, “Are you displaying your American flag correctly?” More than a simple show of patriotism, there are actually federal rules for how to fly the colors respectfully.

Are You Following the Rules?

Most of us know that under no circumstances should the U.S. flag touch the ground. It should be caught and gathered by one person, as the other lowers it. However, there are quite a few more guidelines. Here are some considerations on how to treat Old Glory with the respect it deserves.

1. Daylight hours only. The flag should be raised at sunrise and lowered at dusk. In the event a flag is flown into the evening hours and even overnight, it should have a spotlight trained on it. Even then, the flag should not be left out during rainy or snowy weather.

2. Salute as it goes up and as it comes down. In the morning, the flag should be raised quickly. Lowering a flag should be done slowly.

3. When a flagpole or holder isn’t an option. When hanging a flag vertically, such as on a wall or the side of a building, the Union (the field of stars on the blue background) should always appear on the viewer’s left. Neither signage nor furniture should block the view of the flag. Unless your intention is to send a distress signal, do not fly a flag upside down.

4. Flags onstage. The U.S. flag should be displayed to the speaker’s right side (the audience’s left) on the stage.

5. Only one flag per pole. The flag should not be flown on the same pole as other flags except in very specific circumstances, none of which involve an at-home display. In addition, no flag should ever be raised higher than the stars and stripes if you have multiple flags on display.

6. No autographs please. Flags should never be written on.

7. Please, don’t recycle. The proper disposal for a U.S. flag is incineration. However, a flag should only be burned when it is visibly worn out. Even then, it should be done ceremoniously with the ashes buried. Organizations like the Boy Scouts and local libraries often host collections to ensure that used flags receive the proper send off.

There have been 27 official versions of the U.S. flag. The difference in each had to do with the number of stars as states joined the Union. The current version, however, has lasted the longest.

Patriotism Has Some Limits

In recent years, the flag seems to have turned up as a decorating motif, especially during holiday weekends. While bunting makes a good patriotic decoration—as long as the blue is on top—the rules indicate the U.S. flag is not to be used for commercial reasons, such as reproduced as napkins or cushions. Actual flags are not to be used as tablecloths or bedspreads, and should never be repurposed into clothing articles even when the intent is to show your pride.

Instead, as long as the rules are observed, you are free and encouraged to let it fly!


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