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Flag Etiquette

Respect It — Display It Correctly — Treat It With Care

It is the universal custom to display the national flag from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flag staffs in the open on all days that weather permits, but especially on national and state holidays and other days that may be proclaimed by the President of the United States.

The U.S. flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during hours of darkness.

The U.S. flag should be displayed DAILY on or near the main building of every public institution, during school days in or near every schoolhouse, and in or near every polling place on election days.

Always hoist the U.S. flag briskly. Lower it ceremoniously.

The U.S. flag, when carried in a procession with another or other flags, should be either on the marching right (the flag’s own right) or, if there is a line of other flags, in front of the center of that line. Never display the U.S. flag from a float except from a staff, or so suspended that its folds fall free as though staffed.

SALUTING THE FLAG: When a national flag is raised or lowered as part of a ceremony, or when it passes by in a parade or in review, all persons, except those in uniform, should face the flag and stand at attention with the right hand over the heart.

Those in uniform should give the military salute. When not in uniform, a man should remove his hat with his right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. The flag should be saluted at the moment it passes in a parade or in review. Citizens of other countries stand at attention, but need not salute.

When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, the flag of the U.S. should be in the position of honor at the clergyman’s or speaker’s right as he faces the audience (the left of the audience). Any other flag so displayed is to be placed to the speaker’s left as he faces the audience (the right of the audience).

If displayed flat against a wall on a speaker’s platform, the U.S. flag should be placed above and behind the speaker. When displayed either horizontally or vertically the union of the flag should be in the upper left hand corner as the audience faces the flag.

The U.S. flag should be at the center and at the highest point of the group when a number of flags of States or localities or pennants of societies are grouped and displayed from staffs. When the U.S. flag is on display with flags of other nations, all staffs should be of equal height with the U.S. flag in the position of honor at the U.S. flag’s own right, which is the extreme left as the flags are viewed.

The U.S. flag when displayed with another flag against a wall from crossed staffs, should be on the U.S. flag’s own right, and its staff should be in front of the staff of the other flag.

When displayed outdoors with other flags, the position of honor for the U.S. flag is the U.S. flag’s own right which is normally the extreme left position as the flags are most frequently viewed.

When the U.S. flag is displayed on a pole projecting from a building, the union of the flag should be placed at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half staff. When suspended from a rope extending from the building on a pole, the flag should be hoisted out union first from the building.

When flags of two or more nations are displayed: In this circumstance, all the flags including the U.S. flag are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be of approximately equal size. International usage forbids the display of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace.

When the flags of the five services are displayed together, protocol requires that they appear (from the standpoint of an observer facing them) arranged from left to right in the following order — Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard.

When other flags are flown from the same halyard, the U.S. flag should always be at the peak. When other flags are flown from adjacent staffs, the U.S. flag should be hoisted first and lowered last. No flag may fly above or to the right of the U.S. flag.

When flown at half staff, the U.S. flag should be first hoisted to the peak for a moment and then lowered to the half staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day.

The U.S. flag should form a distinctive feature at the ceremony of unveiling a statue or monument, but should never to used as the covering for the statue or monument.

When the U.S. flag is used to cover a casket, it should be so placed that the union is at the head and over the left shoulder. The flag should not be lowered into the grave or allowed to touch the ground.

Important Dont’s

It is generally not desirable to fly the flag outdoors when the weather is particularly inclement because exposure to severe winds and rain may damage the flag or pole on which it is displayed.

Never in any way should disrespect be shown the U.S. flag.

The U.S. flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are dipped as a mark of honor.

The U.S. flag should never be displayed with the union down except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.

The U.S. flag should never touch anything beneath it — ground, floor, water, or merchandise.

The U.S. flag should never be carried horizontally, but it should always be aloft and free.

Always allow the U.S. flag to fall free — never use the U.S. flag as wearing apparel, bedding or drapery, festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds. For draping platforms and decoration in general, use blue, white, and red bunting. Always arrange the bunting with blue above, the white in the middle and the red below.

The U.S. flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in a manner which will permit it to be easily torn, soiled or damaged in any way.

Never use the U.S. flag as a covering or drape for a ceiling.

Never place anything on the U.S. flag. The U.S. flag should never have placed upon it, or on any part of it, or attached to it, any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture or drawing of any nature.

Never use the U.S. flag for receiving, holding, carrying or delivering anything. The U.S. flag should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use or discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.

Never use any part of the U.S. flag as a costume or athletic uniform. A flag patch may be affixed to uniforms of military personnel, firemen, policemen and members of patriotic organizations.

When the U.S. flag is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, it should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning, privately.

Never display the U.S. flag from a float except from a staff, or so suspended that its folds fall free as though staffed.

The information presented on this page is based on Public Law 94-344, 94th CONGRESS and Amendments thereto.