Flag Etiquette

The U.S. flag can be flown everyday of the year. If it is flown for 24 hours, it should be illuminated so the flag is not in complete darkness.

The flag is half-staffed (sunrise to sunset) on the following days: Peace Officers Memorial Day, May 15; National Korean War Armistice Day, July 27; Patriot Day, Sept. 11; and National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, Dec. 7.

Here are some of the rules for proper display and use of the U.S. flag, as established by generally accepted custom and by Public Law 94-344 approved by Congress and signed by the President in 1976. The Flag Code does not impose penalties for the misuse of the flag. Such penalties are determined by the individual states and the District of Columbia.

Bunting The U.S. flag should never be used as drapery, never festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds. It should always be allowed to fall free. Bunting should be used for decoration: First blue, then white, then red.

Behind a Speaker When used on a speaker's platform, the flag, if displayed flat should be above and behind the speaker. Use bunting to decorate a speaker's desk or the front of the platform.

Over a Street When the U.S. flag is displayed other than from a staff, it should be displayed flat, or suspended so its folds fall free. When displayed over a street, place the union so it faces north or east, depending on the direction of the street.

*When displaying the Alaska state flag vertically, the Big Dipper can face either right or left. There is no state statue or regulation dictating the direction of the Alaska state flag when hung vertically.

From a Building When the flag is displayed from a staff projecting from a windowsill, balcony or building front, the union of the flag should always be at the peak of the staff unless the flag is half-staff.

On a Wall When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag's own right, that is to the observer' left. In a window, the union should be to the flag's right when viewed from outside.

*When displaying the Alaska state flag vertically, the Big Dipper can face either right or left. There is no state statue or regulation dictating the direction of the Alaska state flag when hung vertically.

On a Staff When the U.S. flag is flown with flags or pennants of states, cities or societies, it should always be at the peak. When flown from adjacent staffs, the U.S. flag should be hoisted first and lowered last.

National Flags When flags of two or more nations are displayed together, they should be flown from separate staffs of the same height, and the flags should be of approximately equal size.

In a Parade When carried in a parade front with other flags, the U.S. flag should always be to the marching right of the other flags, or to the front and center of the flag line.

Showing Respect When the flag is raised, lowered or is passing in a parade or review, everyone present, except military personnel, should face the flag and place his or her hand over the heart. Men remove their hats. Military personnel salute.

Memorial Day the flag should be briskly raised in the morning to the top, then lowered slowly to half-staff. At noon, the flag should be raised to the top again.

On a Casket When the flag is used on a casket, its union should be over the deceased's left shoulder. Carry the casket foot first. The flag should not be lowered into the grave or allowed to touch the ground.

How to Fold the U.S. Flag

Begin by holding the flag waist-high with another person so its surface is parallel to the ground. 

Fold lengthwise. Bring the striped half up over the blue field.

Fold lengthwise. Bring the striped half up over the blue field.

Fold the lower right hand corner to the upper edge to form a triangle.

Now fold the lower right hand corner to the upper edge to form a triangle.

Keep folding until you have a triangle with only the blue fields showing. There should be 12 folds in all if you did it right. It should end up in a triangle shape like the revolutionaries' hats.

Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag

"I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation, under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."

The pledge is recited while at attention and saluting with the right hand over the heart. Men in civilian dress remove their headdress; children do the same. Non citizens show respect by merely standing at attention. People in uniform will remain silent and render the military salute. Members in civilian patriotic and veteran organizations (U.S. military, firemen and police) may recite the pledge while at military salute. At a parade, all people stand and salute as the lead U.S. flag in each Division passes. Civilian men remove their hat. Uniformed personnel render the military salute.

An American's Creed

"I believe in the United States of America as a Government of the people, by the people, for the people, whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a Republic; a sovereign National of many sovereign States; a perfect Union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes. I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it; protect its Constitution; to obey its laws; to respect its flag; and to defend it against all enemies."

Adopted in Congress by the U.S. House of Representatives on April 3, 1918

Information provided by VFW Citizenship Education and Community Service.

For additional information visit the VFW website: http://www.vfw.org