American Flag Etiquette -
Serving Middle Village and Maspeth since 1938.

American Flag Etiquette

by -

The American flag at full-staff.

In the month of June and with Fourth of July right on the horizon it seems an appropriate time to publish American Flag Etiquette. The following was culled from Internet sites and will give you an idea of appropriate protocol for flying our beautiful red, white and blue. Perhaps also it will give everyone the incentive to buy an American flag and fly it proudly and correctly.

Customary Dates to fly half-staff:

• Peace Officers Memorial Day, May 15th

• Memorial Day, last Monday in May (Flag raised to full staff at noon)

• Korean War Veterans Day, July 27th

• Patriot Day, September 11th

• Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, December 7th

How to fly your flag at half-staff:

• When raising the flag to half-staff on a vertical pole, always raise it briskly to the top of the flagpole for a moment before lowering it. When taking it down for the night, raise it to the top of the flagpole again & lower it to the bottom.

• With a telescoping pole it is acceptable to put the USA flag on the second set of rings instead of the top set. In this case the top set would be left empty.

• When the United States flag is flown at half-staff, State & other flags should be removed or flown at half-staff too.

If your flag can't fly at half-staff:

• For flags that can't be lowered, such as those on many homes, the American Legion says that attaching a black ribbon or streamer to the top of the flag is an acceptable alternative. The ribbon should be the same width as a stripe on the flag and the same length as the flag.

• For a wall mounted flag, three black mourning bows should be attached to the top edge of the flag, one at each corner and one in the center.

Other Rules:

• Only the President and state Governors can decide when and how long the flag should be flown at half-staff.

• Thirty days after the death of a president or former president

• Ten days after the death of a vice president, the chief of justice or a retired chief of justice or the speaker of the house of representatives.

• Until the burial of an associate justice of the Supreme Court, secretary of a military department, a former vice president, or the governor of a state, territory, or possession.

• On the day of and the day after the death of a member of Congress.

• On Memorial Day, the day set aside to honor all the people who have died while serving the United States & originally called Decoration Day, the flag is flown at half-Staff until noon, then raised to full staff until sundown.

When is it permitted to half-staff the U.S. flag?

Only the president of the United States or the governor of the state may order the flag to be at half-staff to honor the death of a national or state figure. Unfortunately, many city, business and organization leaders are half-staffing the flag upon the death of an employee or member. Instead, it is suggested to half-staff (if on a separate pole) the city, business or organizational flag. The federal flag code does not prohibit this type of half-staffing.

How should the U.S. flag be displayed from a staff when on a platform or on the floor in a church or auditorium?

The U.S. flag should always be placed to the right of the speaker (viewer's left) without regard to a platform or floor level. Any other flags displayed should be placed on the left of the speaker or to the right of the audience

What is the meaning of the gold fringe on some flags?

The addition of the fringe started in the early 1800's as decorative enrichment. There are no rules that prohibit the use of fringe on a U.S. flag by non-governmental groups or organizations.

What should you do with a worn or torn U.S. flag?

Such a flag should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning. Individuals should be responsible for destroying the worn flag in their possession and burying the ashes. VFW Post 3619 would be honored to provide this assistance.

If two flags are staffed before the entrance of a building, where should the U.S. flag be?

On the left side as observed from the street.

Code Modifications for Half-Staff at a Federal Facility

Federal Facilities must follow States lead with Half-Staff proclamations.

The Flag Code half-staffing requirements was modified with new legislation signed into effect on June 29, 2007 by President Bush.

The new legislation requires any federal facility within a region which proclaims half-staffing to honor a member of the US Armed Forces who died on active duty must follow the half-staffing proclamation. For example, if there is a US military fort in your state, and your Governor issues a Half-Staff proclamation, the the US military fort must follow the proclamation. This applies to all Governors of a State, possession or territory, or the Mayor of the District of Columbia. The text as adopted is shown below.

(a) ISSUANCE OF PROCLAMATION.— Subsection (m) of section 7 of title 4, United States Code, is amended in the sixth sentence —

(1) by inserting "or the death of a member of the Armed Forces from any State, territory, or possession who dies while serving on active duty" after "present or former official of the government of any State, territory, or possession of the United States"; and

(2) by inserting before the period the following: ", and the same authority is provided to the Mayor of the District of Columbia with respect to present or former officials of the District of Columbia and members of the Armed Forces from the District of Columbia."

(b) FEDERAL FACILITY CONSISTENCY WITH PROCLAMATION. — Such subsection is further amended by inserting after the sixth sentence the following new sentence: "When the Governor of a State, territory, or possession, or the Mayor of the District of Columbia, issues a proclamation under the preceding sentence that the National flag be flown at half-staff in that State, territory, or possession or in the District of Columbia because of the death of a member of the Armed Forces, the National flag flown at any Federal installation or facility in the area covered by that proclamation shall be flown at half-staff consistent with that proclamation.".

Honoring Deceased Citizens with the Flag

In addition to the traditional half-staff salutes when proclaimed by the President, the Flag Code mentions the use of our Flag for honoring citizens who have died, especially government officials and prominent citizens. However, the Flag Code does not exclude any citizen, whether they belong to an organization or not, whether they are recognized very locally or regionally. Examples of deceased citizens that might be honored by lowering the Flag to half-staff include local religious leaders, youth leaders, honored teachers or sports coaches, local politicians, or a local hero. There need be no authorization from the government for the private sector (non-government) to use the Flag to honor any citizen. It is important to note that the Flag Code is a code, not a Law, it is intended to provide guidance and is not obligatory. It carries no civil or criminal penalties for "misuse" of the Flag. Individual are not acting illegally when using the Flag according to their own usage. Only on government / public building is the flagcode required to be followed.