the celebration of Flag Day just passed, June 14th, and the Fourth of July
just around the corner, this seems a great time to review our Nation’s
codes and understanding of flag etiquette. This article contains many
facts you may have known and many you may not. There are numerous websites
centering around the flag and it’s etiquette at the end of the article.
If you visit only one link listed below, visit POW
Mike Christian's US Flag. This site tells the story of Vietnam POW Mike Christian's desire to have an American
flag with him in prison. I had heard his story years ago and have
never forgotten his bravery and patriotism. My children love this true
story as will yours! May you be blessed as you honor this symbol of our
do honor to the stars and stripes as the emblem of our country and the
symbol of all that our patriotism means. We identify the flag with
almost everything we hold dear on earth. It represents our peace and
security, our civil and political liberty, our freedom of religious
worship, our family, our friends, our home. We see it in the great
multitude of blessings, of rights and privileges that make up our
country. But when we look at our flag and behold it emblazoned with all
our rights, we must remember that it is equally a symbol of our duties.
Every glory that we associate with it is the result of duty done. A
yearly contemplation of our flag strengthens and purifies the national
conscience.” Calvin Coolidge
"The Flag" (author
Remember me? Some people call me Old Glory, others call me the Star
Spangled Banner, but whatever they call me, I am your flag, the flag of
the United States of America.
Something has been bothering me, so I thought I might talk it over with
you - because it is about you and me.
I remember some time ago, people would line up on both side of the
street to watch the parade, and naturally I was leading every one,
proudly waving in the breeze.
When your Daddy saw me coming, he immediately removed his hat and placed
it against his left shoulder so that his hand was directly over his
heart - remember?
And you, I remember, were standing there, straight as a soldier. You
didn't have a hat, but you were giving the right salute. Remember your
little sister? Not to be outdone, she was saluting the same as you with
her right hand over her heart - remember?
What happened? I'm still the same old flag. Oh, I've added a few more
stars since you were a boy, and a lot more blood has been shed since
those parades of long ago.
But now, somehow I don't feel as proud as I used to feel. When I come
down the street, you just stand there with your hands in your pockets.
You may give me a small glance, and then you look away. I see children
running around you shouting; they don't seem to know who I am.
I saw one man take his hat off, then he looked around, and when he
didn't see anybody else take off his hat, he quickly put his on again.
Is it a sin to be patriotic today? Have you forgotten what I stand for,
and where I have been? Anzio, Guadalcanal, Korea and Vietnam!
Take a look at the memorial honor rolls, and see the names of those
patriotic Americans who gave their lives to keep this republic free.
When you salute me, you are actually saluting them!
So when you see me, please stand straight and place your hand over your
heart, and I'll know that you remembered. I'll salute you by waving
to Flag Day, June 14, 1923 there were no federal or state regulations
governing display of the United States Flag. It was on this date that the
National Flag Code was adopted by the National Flag Conference which was
attended by representatives of the Army and Navy which had evolved their
own procedures, and some 66 other national groups. This purpose of
providing guidance based on the Army and Navy procedures relating to
display and associated questions about the U.S. Flag was adopted by all
organizations in attendance.
A few minor changes were made a year later during
the Flag Day 1924 Conference. It was not until June 22, 1942 that Congress
passed a joint resolution which was amended on December 22, 1942 to become
Public Law 829; Chapter 806, 77th Congress, 2nd session. Exact rules for
use and display of the flag (36 U.S.C. 173-178) as well as associated
sections (36 U.S.C. 171) Conduct during Playing of the National Anthem,
(36 U.S.C. 172) the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, and Manner of
Delivery were included.
The code is the guide for all handling and
display of the Stars and Stripes. It does not impose penalties for misuse
of the United States Flag. That is left to the states and to the federal
government for the District of Columbia. Each state has its own flag law.
Criminal penalties for certain acts of
desecration to the flag were contained in Title 18 of the United States
Code prior to 1989. The Supreme Court decision in Texas v. Johnson; June
21, 1989, held the statute unconstitutional. This statute was amended when
the Flag Protection Act of 1989 (Oct. 28, 1989) imposed a fine and/or up
to I year in prison for knowingly mutilating, defacing, physically
defiling, maintaining on the floor or trampling upon any flag of the
United States. The Flag Protection Act of 1989 was struck down by the
Supreme Court decision, United States vs. Eichman, decided on June 11,
While the Code empowers the President of the
United States to alter, modify, repeal or prescribe additional rules
regarding the Flag, no federal agency has the authority to issue
'official' rulings legally binding on civilians or civilian groups.
Consequently, different interpretations of various provisions of the Code
may continue to be made. The Flag Code may be fairly tested: 'No
disrespect should be shown to the Flag of the United States of America.'
Therefore, actions not specifically included in the Code may be deemed
acceptable as long as proper respect is shown. To view the United States
Code—The “Flag Code” go to http://www.usflag.org/us.code36.html#USFC
General Rules for
the U.S. Flag
The U.S. Flag should always be treated with the utmost care and
respect. Remember, the flag represents a living country and, as such,
is considered a living symbol. Always display the flag with the blue
union field up -- never display the flag upside down, except as a
distress signal. Always carry the flag aloft and free -- never carry
it flat or horizontally in processions or parades. Always keep the
flag clean and safe. The flag is a symbol of us all -- of all America.
It is not a political symbol. It is a symbol that each American should
respect, for it represents the honor, courage and sacrifice of those
who struggled to deliver freedom, justice and opportunity to all
The flag should be in front
of the marchers. At the moment the flag passes in a parade or
procession, all persons should show respect by standing at attention
facing the flag with their right hand over their hearts. Persons in
uniform should face the flag and render their formal salute. During a
parade it is appropriate to salute only the first United States Flag.
When other flags are included, the United States Flag should be
centered in front of the others or carried to their right.
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 the
National Anthem; whichever is the longest.
"The flag, when it is in
such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem of display,
should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning."
(The United States Flag Code) The flag should be burned in private at
a private, non-public location. In many American communities, one or
more organizations render an important community service by collecting
and overseeing the proper disposal of old, worn, tattered, frayed
and/or faded U.S. Flags. For information in your community try the Boy
Scouts of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, or the American Legion.
If they provide a flag retirement service the flag can be dropped off
and they will take care of the ceremony. A flag retirement ceremony
may also be a family activity. It provides an opportunity to teach and
retiring the flag as a family the following steps might be considered:
1. Gather the family around. Raise the flag on the pole or staff or
hold it aloft by hand.
2. Call the group to attention salute and recite the Pledge of Allegiance
to the Flag.
3. The leader might say something like "This flag has served its
nation well and long. It is now worn to a condition in which it should no
longer be used to represent the nation. We pay honor to this flag for the
service it has rendered."
4. Fold the flag according to procedures explained at the following
5. Give the flag to the group leader who will burn it until it is
Correct Flag Folding
Have you ever notice at military funerals that the Honor Guard pays
meticulous attention to correctly folding the American flag 13 times? Here
are the reasons:
The first fold
in our flag is a symbol of life.
The second fold
is a symbol of our belief in eternal life.
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.
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 times of war
for His divine guidance.
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."
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.
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 of her enemies,
whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our
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.
The ninth fold
is in 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.
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.
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.
The twelfth fold,
in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity
and glorifies, in the eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.
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 tucked hat, ever reminding us of the
soldiers who served under General George Washington, and of the sailors
and marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones, who was 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. This final condition
represents the thirteenth fold.
In the past few years there has been a renewal of displaying Old
Glory. Many Americans are proud to show their patriotism by displaying the
flag or representations of the flag on clothing, etc., yet in their enthusiasm,
they often dishonor it. Most of us have not given much thought to what
would constitute a dishonorable display of our flag. For a website that
will take away a need to guess, and give you food for though, visit:
Betsy Ross cut a 5 pointed star with just one
snip, you can too!
The Story of Betsy Ross
The Betsy Ross Homepage
Ross Homepage Resources
American flag etiquette, American Legion flag
rules & customs
POW Mike Christian's US Flag
"The Flag Goes
Henry Holcomb Bennett
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,
A flash of color beneath the sky:
The flag is passing by!
Blue and crimson and white it shines
Over the steel-tipped, ordered lines.
Hats off! The colors before us fly
But more than the flag is passing by.
Sea-fights and land-fights, grim and great,
Fought to make and to save the State:
Weary marches and sinking ships;
Cheers of victory on dying lips;
Days of plenty and years of peace;
March of a strong land's swift increase;
Equal justice, right and law,
Stately honor and reverend awe;
Sign of a nation, great and strong
To ward her people from foreign wrong:
Pride and glory and honor, --all
Live in the colors to stand or fall.
Hats off! Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums;
And loyal hearts are beating high:
Hats off! The flag is passing by!