Memorial Day – Doing Right By The Flag

Memorial Day - Doing Right By The Flag

( – Memorial Day is dedicated to honoring our war dead, and one of the ways we do that is by displaying the flag they fought and died under. To do that gesture justice, the flag itself should be treated with respect. Want to check your flag etiquette? Here’s our handy guide!


Our current US flag, the Stars and Stripes, was officially adopted by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. It’s only changed a little since then – more stars have been added to symbolize each new state in our union. The flag isn’t just the emblem of the US; the nation’s story is woven into its design. It deserves to be treated with the utmost respect.

  • The flag should normally be flown from sunrise to sunset. If you want to keep it flying after dark, shine a light on it.
  • On US territory, the national flag should be flown higher than any other flags. If you’re also flying a state or city flag, or one representing an organization or cause, it should be lower than the US flag – either flown below it on the same pole, or on a shorter pole.
  • Unless your flag is an all-weather one, don’t fly it in high winds or bad weather, to protect it from damage.
  • Never deface the flag by writing on it or adding or removing elements to the design. It’s not illegal to do this – although many people believe it is – but it is extremely disrespectful.
  • The US flag should never be dipped or lowered as a salute, except on days of national mourning – when orders are issued that it should be flown at half-mast – or when it’s being flown from a ship as the jack or ensign.
  • Don’t allow the flag to touch the ground. This is partly an extension of the no-dipping rule, but also a practical matter – the flag should be kept clean, and letting it touch the ground might soil it. However, if it does touch the ground, ignore anyone who says you need to burn or bury it – just raise it as quickly as possible, and if it’s dirty give it a wash.
  • Let the flag fly free. It shouldn’t be bunched or tied.
  • The flag shouldn’t be held or carried flat, except when it’s being laid on a casket at a funeral.
  • Never fly the flag upside down unless there’s an emergency and you need help. An upside-down flag is an international distress signal.
  • Flags should be maintained in good repair. If a flag is so old and worn that it’s not a fit emblem of the US anymore, dispose of it respectfully. The preferred way to do this is by burning. The Boy Scouts and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) often hold flag-burning ceremonies (if you put an old flag in a flag disposal box this is its likely fate) or you can burn it yourself in a dignified way.

If you want to know more about the proper care and treatment of our flag, check out the United States Flag Code.

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