There are many ways to display our most treasured symbol of liberty. There are guidelines for civilians on how to display the flag inside and outside of your home. The military has a stricter code and set of rules, though. It seems like such a simple thing, but without knowing these guidelines, it can be easy to display the flag improperly. So, what are all the ways?
Civilian Uses and Etiquette
America is unique when it comes to just how proud we are to fly our flag. Patriotism is not quite as prevalent in other countries, and flying the national flag isn’t as common. How many times have you passed a home in the United States with an American flag displayed on the front? Probably every day.
Outside of the Home
Displaying a beautiful, domestically made American flag is a great way to show your patriotism with your neighbors. However, there are a few key aspects to remember. It’s essential to make sure there is no vegetation or anything else that could touch the flag while hanging. Either trim those bushes or find a more appropriate place to hang the flag.
Remember to hang the flag with the union in the upper left corner. The other way around is not how it’s supposed to be displayed. You might accidentally hang the flag upside down, and that means something else entirely!
You don’t have to, but is it considered proper to illuminate the flag from dusk until dawn. The flag should always be visible and seen as a beacon for liberty. If you don’t want to go out and buy a dedicated light, you can simply choose a place to hang your flag where your house lights are already lit. Not a bad way to make your flag shine and save some money!
If the weather takes a turn for the worse, it’s best to bring the flag inside. The flag should not be getting wet, and you don’t want stormy winds putting rips and tears in it. Luckily, Allegiance Flag Supply has a great selection of really tough but beautiful flags that can fight the elements.
It is totally fine to fly other flags alongside the American flag so long as none of the other flags fly higher or to the right of the American flag. Our flag supersedes the importance of all other symbols. It’s important to remember that these are just guidelines and that you have the freedom to really do whatever you want, but it is considered a sign of respect and honor to abide by these rules.
Indoors and Other Places
The nice thing about hanging a flag inside is that you don’t have to worry about any bad weather hurting your flag or having to take it down. Just remember to keep dust off of it! The American flag should always be clean.
You may have gone inside a friend’s home and saw an American flag pinned horizontally on a wall. It’s not advised to hang any flag really by putting holes in it. That is considered disrespectful to the flag.
It’s best to either hang the flag by a pole or vertically with a sleeve. Punching holes in the flag is not seen kindly by people. The same rules about the flag not touching the ground or being touched by other things outside apply to indoor flags as well.
Similar to American Storm flags, there are American flags that can get wet and get exposed to high volumes of wind; boat flags. These are designed and constructed to really take a beating by the elements.
Allegiance Flag Supply has a whole set that includes the polymer pole to hang the boat flag on. These flags fly incredibly well and won’t tear or accumulate mold. Display the American ensign on the water the right way with a flag that will last a lifetime.
As we raise our flags outside our homes, in our businesses, and at events, keep in mind the etiquette that is expected so we can be respectful of our most precious symbol of freedom and democracy.
Other elements of the flag code talk about not using the American flag for advertising purposes, but this is largely ignored. After all, how are people supposed to know where they can buy quality American flags if they can’t be displayed in advertisements?
It is technically ill-advised to have the flag displayed on temporary things that will be thrown away, like napkins or water bottles. Attitudes about this are certainly relaxed nowadays. Stuff like this is very common at 4th of July parties.
If you are going to wear a flag pin on your person, it should be on your left side near your heart. You’ll probably keep an extra close eye on this practice the next time you see a public figure on television.
If your flag gets too torn or weathered to keep flying, it’s customary to incinerate the retired flag. You don’t have to do this yourself, though. There are many organizations that will do it for you, including the Boy Scouts of America, the Girl Scouts of America, and various veterans offices.
The military is held to a different standard when it comes to the United States Flag Code. These rules are expected to be followed to the letter and are strictly enforced. Many of these rules apply the same way to civilians but are not laws that have to be obeyed; they’re just guidelines.
One of the most obvious rules that the military follows is not allowing the flag to touch the ground. The flag should always fly above any vegetation or obstructions. Nothing should be touching it. This is for obvious reasons.
You may have seen United States soldiers with flag patches that appear to be backward on their right arms. This is to give the effect of the flag pushing forward into combat. If the flag were the other way, it would be interpreted as defeat or retreat.
This rule also applies to the right side of government vehicles as well. Curiously, the flag arm patches did not become a mandatory part of the military uniform until 2005.
Every time the flag is risen or taken down, it’s a kind of mini ceremony. The American flag is not exactly treated like a bed sheet that’s rung out and then quickly attached. Soldiers march to the flag pole and very carefully and respectfully unfold the flag and attach it to have it hoisted.
The flag is only ever raised upside down as a sign of distress or danger. Sometimes, however, it can be seen as a sign of disrespect. This practice has rarely been seen in history.
The most honored tradition in the military is the draping, folding, and presentation of the American flag to the families of fallen soldiers. When a soldier is killed while serving or later passes away after service, they are given a special funeral.
Their casket is covered with the American flag during religious services and remains covered until the casket is brought to the burial site. Usually, two soldiers from the same branch then fold the flag with thirteen folds exactly. Each fold has its own meaning:
- The first represents life.
- Belief in eternal life.
- In honor of the veteran themselves.
- Trust in God.
- A tribute to our country.
- For our hearts as Americans.
- In honor of the Armed Forces.
- In honor of the veteran and Mother’s Day.
- A tribute to womanhood.
- In tribute to the father of the veteran.
- Represents the lower part of the seal of King David and King Solomon.
- A tribute to eternity and the holy trinity.
- The final fold with the stars showing and representing “In God We Trust.”
The folded flag is then presented to a family member, usually next of kin. Sometimes this tradition is slightly modified depending on the wishes of the family. Veteran funerals are, perhaps, the time when the flag is handled with the most care and respect. The family member who keeps the flag will usually keep it folded and in a case for display.
With Care and Respect
The American flag is our symbol, and it represents us as a people. There are many ways to display the flag both outside and indoors. It’s important to remain respectful not only in how it is displayed but how it is physically handled.
If you are ever in doubt about whether or not what you are going to do is proper etiquette, just ask yourself if what you’re about to do seems respectful or not and use your best judgment. Remember that the flag code is just a set of guidelines, but it is best to stick with them as closely as you can.
If you want to buy a flag that will handle wind, rain, and fading, go ahead and buy a quality example from Allegiance Flag Supply. We provide handmade, domestically produced American flags with quality materials and long-lasting stitching.
The Meaning Behind the 13 Flag Folds | Military.com
[USC02] 4 USC Ch. 1: THE FLAG | USCode.House.Gov
4 US Code § 8 - Respect for flag | US Code | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute