A Guide to American Flag Etiquette
Standards of Respect
The Flag Code, which
formalizes and unifies the traditional ways in which we give respect
to the flag, also contains specific instructions on how the flag is
not to be used.
- The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. It is flown upside down only as a distress signal.
- The flag should not be
used as a drapery, or for covering a speakers desk, draping a
platform, or for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and
red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the
bunting should be on the top.
- The flag should never be
used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered,
printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions,
handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded
after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the
staff or halyard.
- The flag should not be
used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag
patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman,
policeman and members of patriotic organizations.
- The flag should never have
placed on it, or attached to it, any mark, insignia, letter, word,
number, figure, or drawing of any kind.
- The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
When the flag is lowered, no
part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be
received by waiting hands and arms. To store the flag it should be
folded neatly and ceremoniously.
The flag should be cleaned and mended when necessary.
When a flag is so worn it
is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be
destroyed by burning in a dignified manner.
Most American Legion Posts regularly conduct a dignified flag burning
ceremony, often on Flag Day, June 14th. Contact your local American
Legion Hall and inquire about the availability of this service.
Displaying The Flag Outdoors
When the flag is displayed
from a staff projecting from a window, balcony, or a building, the
union should be at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half
When it is displayed from
the same flagpole with another flag - of a state, community, society or
Scout unit - the flag of the United States must always be at the top
except that the church pennant may be flown above the flag during
church services for Navy personnel when conducted by a Naval chaplain
on a ship at sea.
When the flag is displayed
over a street, it should be hung vertically, with the union to the
north or east. If the flag is suspended over a sidewalk, the flag's
union should be farthest from the building.
When flown with flags of
states, communities, or societies on separate flag poles which are of
the same height and in a straight line, the flag of the United States
is always placed in the position of honor - to its own right. The
other flags may be smaller but none may be larger. No other flag ever
should be placed above it. The flag of the United States is always the
first flag raised and the last to be lowered.
When flown with the
national banner of other countries, each flag must be displayed from a
separate pole of the same height. Each flag should be the same size.
They should be raised and lowered simultaneously. The flag of one
nation may not be displayed above that of another nation.
Raising and Lowering The Flag
The flag should be raised
briskly and lowered slowly and ceremoniously. Ordinarily it should be
displayed only between sunrise and sunset. It should be illuminated if
displayed at night. The flag of the United States of America is
saluted as it is hoisted and lowered. The salute is held until the
flag is unsnapped from the halyard or through the last note of music,
whichever is the longest.
Displaying The Flag Indoors
When on display, the flag
is accorded the place of honor, always positioned to its own right.
Place it to the right of the speaker or staging area or sanctuary.
Other flags should be to the left.
The flag of the United
States of America should be at the center and at the highest point of
the group when a number of flags of states, localities, or societies
are grouped for display.
When one flag is used with
the flag of the United States of America and the staffs are crossed, the
flag of the United States is placed on its own right with its staff
in front of the other flag.
When displaying the flag
against a wall, vertically or horizontally, the flag's union (stars)
should be at the top, to the flag's own right, and to the observer's
Parading and Saluting The Flag
When carried in a
procession, the flag should be to the right of the marchers. When other
flags are carried, the flag of the United States may be centered in
front of the others or carried to their right. When the flag passes in
a procession, or when it is hoisted or lowered, all should face the
flag and salute.
To salute, all persons come
to attention. Those in uniform give the appropriate formal salute.
Citizens not in uniform salute by placing their right hand over the
heart and men with head cover should remove it and hold it to left
shoulder, hand over the heart. Members of organizations in formation
salute upon command of the person in charge.
The Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem
The pledge of allegiance
should be rendered by standing at attention, facing the flag, and
saluting. When the national anthem is played or sung, citizens should
stand at attention and salute at the first note and hold the salute
through the last note. The salute is directed to the flag, if
displayed, otherwise to the music.
The Flag in Mourning
To place the flag at half
staff, hoist it to the peak for an instant and lower it to a position
half way between the top and bottom of the staff. The flag is to be
raised again to the peak for a moment before it is lowered. On
Memorial Day, the flag is displayed at half staff until noon and at
full staff from noon to sunset.
The flag is to be flown at
half staff in mourning for designated, principal government leaders and
upon presidential or gubernatorial order.
When used to cover a
casket, the flag should be placed with the union at the head and over
the left shoulder. It should not be lowered into the grave.
Additional Links For Flag Etiquette
Flag Rules and Regulations - describes how to fold the flag, display it, laws and regulations, and more.
USFlag.org: Flag Etiquette - provides standards of respect, the flag in mourning, and more.