There are many customs & practises which make up US Flag etiquette but the over-riding rule is to treat any flag with the respect that it deserves.
Of course, our National Flag symbolizes many things inlcuding our history, our democracy, our struggles and honor for our Veterans. It is a 'living' Flag which is displayed across our Nation constantly.
The American Flag deserves GREAT respect.
Opposite you'll find information from the Flag Code and below you'll see further intructions on how to fold the flag and how to retire and dispose of the flag in the appropriate way once it becomes unserviceable.
Folding the American Flag
- Each fold must be neat and tight to ensure the triangular folds fit properly
- Begin with two people holding the Flag at waist height with the underside surface parallel to the ground
- Fold the lower stripe area over the star field and stripes at the top so that the flag is half width and full length. This creates a folded edge and an open edge
- Fold again the same way so the star field is visible on top
- Take the folded edge lower left corner ( stripe ) and fold into a triangle to meet the right hand side open edge
- Fold straight up to create square end again.
- Fold right edge to left and then fold upwards once again
- Continue to fold in triangles to opposite edges until there is only enough star field at the top to create an opposite second triangle to be folded towards the first triangle and tucked into it
- Alternatively continue to fold first triangle all the way until it becomes just one triangle
Retiring the American Flag
There is no perfect way to retire Old Glory but there are several acceptable ways it can be done:
- Contact a local Veterans of Foreign Wars ( VFW) post and they will ensure a respectful and dignified cermemony
- It is acceptable to burn the Flag with dignity and respect
- It is also acceptable to cut up the Flag using an approved technique that does NOT cut through the star field. The Star field represents the union of the Fifty States and one should never let the Union be broken. When a Flag is cut up it is no longer officially a flag
- Find a local recycling group. This can sometimes be free, often with small donations encouraged
Whichever method is chosen the important point is that the Flag is retired in a respectful and dignified manner
The Flag Code
The United States Flag Code formalizes guidelines for the care and display of the American Flag. The main summarized points are as follows :
Displayed vertically or horizontally - The Stars should be at the top to the observer's left. It should be raised briskly and lowered ceremoniously. If the Union of Stars is displayed at the bottom ie down, this is a sign of distress and must only be used so.
Displayed or carried in procession - The Flag should be positioned to its own right. Also to the right of any speaker or stage with all other flags to the left. Citizens should stand at attention and salute when the flag is passing, hoisted or lowered,
Displayed stationary - the Flag should be at the center and highest point when flown with other State Flags
Displayed with other National Flags - To be on separate staff, equal height and size as others, raised and lowered at the same time
Time of National Mourning - As directed by the President, the US Flag can be flown at half-mast. When flown at half-mast the Flag should be hosted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to half staff position. The flag should be raised to the peak before lowered at the end of the day. On Memorial Day the flag should be displayed at half mast until noon, then raised to the top of the staff and flown until sunset.
Covering a casket - the Flag should be placed with the stars at the head and over the left shoulder. It should not be lowered into the grave or be allowed to touch the ground.
Respect - The flag should not be dipped to any person or thing, and can be flown upside down only as a distress signal.
The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a way that would allow it to be easily torn, soiled or damaged. Bunting of blue, white, and red can be used for covering a speaker's desk, draping the front of a platform, or for decoration in general.
The flag should never have any mark, insignia, letter, work, or other designs of any kind placed upon it.
The flag should never be used for advertising purposes - It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, paper napkins, boxes, or anything that is designed for temporary use. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a flag's staff or halyard.
The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform - except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations.
When lowering the flag be sure that no part of it touches the ground or any other object. It should be received by waiting hands and arms.
Folding - The Flag should be folded neatly and ceremoniously before storage. Specific folding instructions apply. See instructions opposite.
Retiring the Flag - The American flag must be retired when it is that visually clear that it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country. It should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner. There are various organisations which will do this such as Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) or American Legion. The Flag can also be cut up using an approved technique that doesn't cut through the blue star field.