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American Legion offers Flag etiquette

Tuesday, June 3, 2003

Many patriots like to fly the American flag. There is a proper way to display and show respect for Flag of the United States of America.

Though frequently done improperly, it's probably done from lack of knowledge rather than from intentional disrespect.

The American Legion has published a booklet duplicating the United States Flag Code. The booklet highlights the proper way to display the flag and the customs most commonly done incorrectly. The following are exerts from the "Lets be Right on Flag Etiquette" distributed by The American Legion.

- The Flag Code states that it is the universal custom to display the Flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flag staffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the Flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.

- "Proper illumination" is a light specifically placed to illuminate the Flag (preferred) or having a light source sufficient to illuminate the Flag so it is recognizable as such by the casual observer.

- The proper way to display the Flag on an automobile is to fly it in an upright position from a staff firmly clamped to the chassis or clamped to the right front fender. (Mrs. Waldron suggests that if chassis or bumper mounts are not accessible, the flag may be mounted on the window frame but it should be on the right side of the car.)

- When the Flag is not flown from a staff, it should be displayed vertically, whether indoors or out, and suspended so that its folds fall free as though the Flag were staffed. The stripes may be displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the Flag's own right; that is, to the observer's left. When displayed in a window of a home or a place of business, the Flag should be displayed in the same way; that is, with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street.

- Definition of the Flag's own right.

The "right" as the position of honor developed from the time when the "right hand" was the "weapon hand" or "point of danger." The right hand raised without weapon was a sign of peace. The right hand, to any observer, is the observer's left. Therefore, as used in the Flag Code, the Flag and/or blue field is displayed to the left of the observer, which is the Flag's "own right."

- When flags of states, cities or localities, or pennants of societies are flown on the same halyard with the flag of the United States, the latter should always be at the peak. When the flags are flown from adjacent staffs, the flag of the United States should be hoisted first and lowered last. No such flag or pennant may be placed above the flag of the United States or to the United States flag's right.

- The Code suggests that, "When a Flag has served its useful purpose, it should be destroyed, preferably by burning." For individual citizens this should be done discreetly so that the act of destruction is not perceived as a protest or desecration. Many American Legion Posts conduct Disposal of Unserviceable Flag ceremonies on June 14, Flag Day, each year. This ceremony creates a particularly dignified and solemn occasion for the retirement of unserviceable Flags.

- There are no provisions of the Flag Code which prohibit washing or dry-cleaning. The decision to wash or dry-clean would be dependent on the material.

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