Flag etiquette: Handle "Old Glory" with care

Published on Tue, Jul 2, 2013 by Earl Erickson

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The United States flag is considered to be a living symbol of a free country, and represents the many freedoms, rights and responsibilities entrusted to our citizens – many of which are not entrusted to the citizens of other world countries.

There are codes and guidelines to displaying or flying the flag, and while the law does not provide penalties for violations of 
those codes, misuse or improper display can incur ridicule from those more familiar with the provisions. 

As I travel through the beautiful Pacific Northwest, I often observe violations in how the American flag is displayed. Here are answers to a few common questions about displaying the American flag.

Q: Who may authorize the flag to be flown at half-staff?

A: The flag can only be flown at half-staff by proclamation of the President of the United States or by the governor of any state, territory or possession.

Q: Can American flags be flown with other flags?

A: Yes, but the American flag must be raised first and lowered last. Flags of other countries, service organizations or state flags must not be flown higher than the American flag out of respect.

Q: What is the procedure for parades?

A: The American flag should be displayed on the right side of the parade and always on a pole or staff. It should never be draped on any vehicles, boats or persons. It should not be displayed horizontally – instead it should be allowed to wave freely.

Q: On indoor displays, how is the flag presented?

A: When displayed on a wall, the blue with the stars should appear in the upper-left corner.

Q: When an American flag is torn or faded how should it be disposed of?

A: Many veterans’ organizations conduct disposal services on June 14 (Flag Day) as a dignified and respectful way to dispose of unserviceable flags.