American Flag Etiquette
American Flag

American Flag Etiquette

The U.S. Flag Code formalizes and unifies the traditional ways in which all Americans should give respect to the flag, also contains specific instructions on how the flag is not to be used.

The following is a quick list of do’s and don’ts associated with Old Glory, the U.S. Flag.

When displaying the flag, DO the following:

    • Display the U.S. flag from sunrise to sunset on buildings and stationary flagstaffs in the open. When a patriotic effect is desired the flag may be displayed 24-hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.
    • When placed on a single staff or lanyard, place the U.S. Flag above all other flags.
    • When flags are displayed in a row, the U.S. flag goes to the observer’s left. Flags of other nations are flown at same height. State and local flags are traditionally flown lower.
    • When used during a marching ceremony or parade with other flags, the U.S. Flag will be to the observer’s left.
    • On special days, the flag may be flown at half-staff. On Memorial Day it is flown at half-staff until noon and then raised.
    • When flown at half-staff, should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day. By “half-staff” is meant lowering the flag to one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff.
    • When the flag is displayed over the middle of the street, it should be suspended vertically with the union (blue field of stars) to the north in an east and west street or to the east in a north and south street.
    • When placed on a Podium the flag should be placed on the speaker’s right or the staging area. Other flags should be placed to the left.
    • When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall (or other flat surface), the union (blue field of stars) should be uppermost and to the flag’s own right, that is, to the observer’s left.
    • When displayed in a window it should be displayed in the same way — with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street.
    • When the flag is displayed on a car, the staff shall be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.
    • When the 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.

When saluting the flag DO the following:

    • All persons present in uniform (military, police, fire, etc.) should render the military salute. Members of the armed forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute.
    • All other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.

When stowing or disposing of the flag, DO the following:

    • Fold in the traditional triangle for stowage, never wadded up.
    • The VFW offers the following instructions for properly disposing of a worn flag:
      • The flag should be folded in its customary manner.
      • It is important that the fire be fairly large and of sufficient intensity to ensure complete burning of the flag.
      • Place the flag on the fire.
      • The individual(s) can come to attention, salute the flag, recite the Pledge of Allegiance and have a brief period of silent reflection.
      • After the flag is completely consumed, the fire should then be safely extinguished and the ashes buried.
      • Please make sure you are conforming to local/state fire codes or ordinances.

Quick list of Flag Etiquette Don’ts:

    • Don’t dip the U.S. Flag for any person, flag, or vessel.
    • Don’t let the flag touch the ground.
    • Don’t fly flag upside down unless there is an emergency.
    • Don’t carry the flag flat, or carry things in it.
    • Don’t use the flag as clothing.
    • Don’t store the flag where it can get dirty.
    • Don’t use it as a cover.
    • Don’t fasten it or tie it back. Always allow it to fall free.
    • Don’t draw on, or otherwise mark the flag.
    • Don’t use the flag for decoration. Use bunting with the blue on top, then white, then red.



The Salute
To salute, all persons come to attention. Those in uniform give the appropriate formal salute. Citizens not in uniform salute by placing their right hand over the heart and men with head cover should remove it and hold it to left shoulder, hand over the heart. Members of organizations in formation salute upon command of the person in charge.

The Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem
The pledge of allegiance should be rendered by standing at attention, facing the flag, and saluting.
When the national anthem is played or sung, citizens should stand at attention and salute at the first note and hold the salute through the last note. The salute is directed to the flag, if displayed, otherwise to the music.

The Flag in Mourning
To place the flag at half staff, hoist it to the peak for an instant and lower it to a position half way between the top and bottom of the staff. The flag is to be raised again to the peak for a moment before it is lowered. On Memorial Day the flag is displayed at half staff until noon and at full staff from noon to sunset.

The flag is to be flown at half staff in mourning for designated, principal government leaders and upon presidential or gubernatorial order.

When used to cover a casket, the flag should be placed with the union at the head and over the left shoulder. It should not be lowered into the grave.

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