top of page

Flag Etiquette

Useful Information

When to Display your Flag

The flag should be displayed, from sunrise to sunset, on all days when the weather permits, especially on:


New Year's Day, January 1.
Inauguration Day.
Martin Luther King's Birthday, Third Monday in January.
Lincoln's Birthday.
Washington's Birthday, February 22.
Easter Sunday.
Mother's Day, Second Sunday in May.
Armed Forces Day, Third Saturday in May.
Memorial Day (half-staff until noon), Last Monday in May.
Flag Day, June 14th.
Independence Day, July 4th.
Labor Day, First Monday in September.
Constitution Day, September 17th.
Columbus Day, October 12th.
Navy Day.
Veterans Day, November 11th.
Thanksgiving Day, Fourth Thursday in November.
Christmas Day, December 25th.
Election Days (various).
Federally observed dates of the above holidays which may be different from the actual dates.
Such days as may be proclaimed by the President of the United States.
State and Local Holidays.


 


WHY THE AMERICAN FLAG IS FOLDED 13 TIMES.
 

Have you ever noticed on TV or at military funerals that the honor guard pays meticulous attention to correctly folding the American flag 13 times? Each fold of the U.S. flag has an important meaning. We have verified its accuracy at the U.S. Air Force Academy Web site [go to main page, then click on "Information", then on "Flags"].

1. The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.

2. The second fold is a symbol of our belief in eternal life.

3. The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing our ranks who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of our country to attain peace throughout the world.

4. The fourth fold represents our weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in time of war for His divine guidance.

5. The fifth fold is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, "Our Country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong."

6. The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we 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.

7. The seventh fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether they are found within or without the boundaries of our republic.

8. The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor mother, for whom it flies on Mother's Day.

9. The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood; for it has been through their faith, their love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great has been molded.

10. The tenth fold is a tribute to the father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since they were first born.

11. The eleventh fold, in the eyes of a Hebrew citizen represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon, and glorifies in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

12. The twelfth fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.

13. When the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost reminding us of our nation's motto, "In God We Trust". After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington, and the sailors and marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones. Those who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States, preserving for us the rights, privileges, and freedoms we enjoy today.

veteran-flag.jpg

American Flag Display 

 FAQ

Can a flag that has covered a casket be displayed after its original use?

There are no provisions in the Flag Code to suggest otherwise. It would be a fitting tribute to the memory of the deceased veteran and his or her service to a grateful nation if the casket flag is displayed.

Can the U.S. flag be displayed in inclement weather?

The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement, with the exception of an all-weather (nylon or other non-absorbent material) flag. However, most flags are made of all-weather materials.

What is the significance of displaying the flag at half-staff?

This gesture is a sign to indicate the nation mourns the death of an individual(s), such as death of the president or former president, vice president, Supreme Court justice, member of Congress, secretary of an executive or military department, etc. Only the president or a state governor may order the flag to be displayed at half-staff. The honor and reverence accorded this solemn act is quickly becoming eroded by those individuals and agencies that display the flag at half-staff on inappropriate occasions without proper authority to do so. To be notified when the flag is to be displayed at half-staff, sign up for the Flag Alert e-newsletter at legion.org/newsletters.

When the flag is not flown from a staff, how should it be displayed?

It should be displayed vertically, whether indoors or out, and suspended so that its folds fall free as though the flag were staffed. The stripes may be displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, and the union should be uppermost and to the flag’s own right (that is, to the observer’s left). When displayed in a window of a home or a place of business, the flag should be displayed in the same way (that is, with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street).

How are unserviceable flags destroyed?

The Flag Code suggests that when a flag has served its useful purpose, “it should be destroyed, preferably by burning.” For individual citizens, this should be done discreetly so the act of destruction is not perceived as a protest or desecration. Many American Legion posts conduct disposal of unserviceable flag ceremonies on June 14, Flag Day. Such ceremonies are particularly dignified and solemn occasions for the retirement of unserviceable flags. To find an American Legion post near you to assist with dignified disposal, visit Find a Post (mylegion.org).

Can the flag be washed or dry-cleaned?

Yes. No provisions of the Flag Code prohibit such care. The decision to wash or dry-clean would depend on the material.

Are you required to destroy the flag if it touches the ground?

The Flag Code states that the flag should not touch anything beneath it, including the ground. This is stated to indicate that care should be exercised in the handling of the flag, to protect it from becoming soiled or damaged. You are not required to destroy the flag when this happens. As long as the flag remains suitable for display, even if washing or dry-cleaning is required, you may continue to display the flag as a symbol of our great country.

What is the proper method for folding the flag?

The Flag Code does not require any specific method. However, a tradition of folding has developed over time that produces a triangular-shaped form, like that of a three-corner hat with only the blue union showing. To learn more about folding a flag, visit American Flag-Folding Procedures | The American Legion

May a person, other than a veteran, have his or her casket draped with the flag of the United States?

Yes. Although this honor is usually reserved for veterans or highly regarded state and national figures, the Flag Code does not prohibit this use.

What is the significance of the gold fringe seen on some U.S. flags?

Records indicate that fringe was first used on the flag as early as 1835. It was not until 1895 that it was officially added to the national flag for all Army regiments. For civilian use, fringe is not required as an integral part of the flag, nor can its use be said to constitute an unauthorized addition to the design prescribed by statute. Fringe is used as an honorable enrichment only.

 

What is meant by the flag’s own right?

The “right” as the position of honor developed from the time when the right hand was the “weapon hand” or “point of danger.” The right hand, raised without a weapon, was a sign of peace. The right hand, to any observer, is the observer’s left. Therefore, as used in the Flag Code, the flag and/or blue field is displayed to the observer’s left, which is the flag’s “own right.”

 

Is it proper to fly the U.S. flag at night?

The Flag Code states it is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flag staffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness. The American Legion interprets “proper illumination” as a light specifically placed to illuminate the flag (preferred) or having a light source sufficient to illuminate the flag so it is recognizable as such by the casual observer.

 

What should be the position of the flag when displayed from a staff in a church, public auditorium or other public meeting place, whether indoors or outdoors, on platform, or on the floor at ground level?

When used on a speaker’s platform, the flag, if displayed flat, should be displayed above and behind the speaker. When displayed from a staff in a church, public auditorium or meeting place, the flag should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman’s or speaker’s right as he faces the audience. Prior to the Flag Code changes in 1976, the display procedure was somewhat different. Now, the staffed flag should always be placed to the right of the speaker (observer’s left) without regard to a platform or floor level.

 

What are the penalties for the physical desecration of the flag?

There are currently no penalties for the physical desecration of the flag. The American Legion and other members of the Citizens Flag Alliance continue working toward securing a constitutional amendment to protect the flag from physical desecration.

 

Can the U.S. flag be used in advertising?

The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. Our organization places emphasis of its interpretation and opinion upon the U.S. Flag Code's very specific language of "never" and "in any manner whatsoever" when considering use of the flag, or image of the flag, in association with advertising purposes. Those having concern with interpretation of this section of the U.S. Flag Code might instead consider opting for use of stars and stripes, as well as red, white, and blue colors, to convey a patriotic tone instead using a pattern of the flag.

 

Can synthetic flags be burned as a means of dignified disposal?

Section 8, paragraph (k) of the U.S. Flag Code states, "The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning." This does include flags made of nylon and synthetic materials. The vast majority of United States flags displayed today are made of nylon or polyester materials, which are inherently difficult to dispose of by burning. Federal, state, and local governmental agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency have legitimate concerns when it comes to the burning of these unserviceable flags because of the harmful and hazardous gasses emitted. Burying, although a tradition, is certainly not recommended for nylon/synthetic flags either, as they are not biodegradable. Options for consideration is contacting and developing an arrangement with a trash disposal service that has an incinerator which can burn these flags at a very high temperature (who is already licensed to burn synthetic materials) and who will allow or facilitate conducting a dignified disposal of those flags. Or from time-to-time funeral homes will take in flags to be cremated at high temperature with the body of a veteran in a dignified manner, so we also suggest seeking to develop an arrangement with funeral homes to see if they will take these flags in. Additionally, we suggest checking with your local city or county attorney, or state attorney general's office, to inquire about local laws and disposal availability they use for their local state or municipality flags.

 

How should small graveside flags be retired?

The U.S. Flag Code states that when a flag is no longer serviceable, for example, torn, worn, tattered, frayed, faded, etc., it is no longer a fitting emblem for display. We recommend you consult and coordinate with the management of the cemetery to obtain guidelines they might have specific to their cemetery regarding procedures for placement and retrieval of graveside flags - every cemetery operates under different sets of guidelines and policies.

 

May I wear flag clothing?

It is the longstanding opinion of the Americanism Commission of The American Legion that it is acceptable to wear clothing that has an image of the American flag on it if that garment has not been made using an actual U.S. Flag as the textile. It is The American Legion's opinion that, with few exceptions, the U.S. Flag Code pertains only to an actual flag. Early on in our campaign to protect the flag from physical desecration, Congress agreed in 1989 that the term "flag of the United States" means "any FLAG of the United States, or any part thereof, made of any substance, of any size, in a form that is commonly displayed." A shirt, necktie, hair band, etc., with the likeness of a flag, is not a form commonly displayed as any sort of flag. Many Americans simply want to express their patriotism and love of country by wearing an article of clothing or an item that has an image of the flag imprinted upon it. You should note that there are those who have differing opinions than that of The American Legion, so we are not able to say if you will offend anyone or not.

 

What about other types of flags? Are they acceptable?

Our area of expertise is about the care and display of the national flag of the United States that is defined in Presidential Executive Order (E.O.) No. 10834, August 24, 1959. E.O No. 10834, Part 1 (Design of the flag), Section 1 states, "The flag of the United States shall have thirteen horizontal stripes, alternate red and white, and a union consisting of white stars on a field of blue." As such, our organization will no longer take any position or offer any other comment about any other flag other than the U.S. Flag itself as defined in E.O. No. 10834. This position does not denote our organization's support for or non-support for any causes that may be represented by flags other than the Flag of the United States. There are many decorative, patriotic buntings and banners which people choose to display.

 

What is the order in which flags should be displayed, left to right (when facing)?

  1. United States flag (first mentioned in precedence in U.S. Flag Code)

  2. State flag (next in order of precedence per U.S. Flag Code)

  3. City / county / locality flag (next in order of precedence per U.S. Flag Code)
    (following those mentioned above in the U.S. Flag Code are “pennants of societies”, aka flags of organizations or “organizational flags”. The U.S. Flag Code offers no specific hierarchy for precedence of display among any specific organizational flags)

  4. POW/MIA flag (organizational flag – first organizational flag of precedence IAW National Security Commission guidance/opinion; high honor as an organizational flag due to the symbolism it represents)

  5. U.S. Army (organizational flag)

  6. U.S. Marine Corps (organizational flag)

  7. U.S. Navy (organizational flag)

  8. U.S. Air Force (organizational flag)

  9. U.S. Space Force (organizational flag)

  10. U.S. Coast Guard (organizational flag)

  11. American Legion (organizational flag)

 

May I display multiple flags?

Multiple flags may be displayed from the same flagpole. Other flags displayed with the U.S. flag may be of approximately equal size but may not be larger, and no other flag may fly above the flag of the United States. The U.S. Flag Code is silent as to mandating or restricting the number of flags displayed from a single pole. In making that determination a great deal would depend upon the height of the pole, the size of the flags, and the visual proportional appearance when multiple flags are displayed on the same pole.

bottom of page