Monday January 23, 2017; 12:32 pm EST
Treat Our Flag Right
It’s Alive, U.S. Code Says
On Monday June 14, our nation celebrates Flag Day, a national holiday that honors the Continental Congress’ adoption of the official American flag.
With 13 bars and 50 stars, the American flag is one of the most recognizable symbols of our union. Here’s how to treat it with the care it deserves.
• Don’t wear the flag. Resist the temptation to buy apparel imprinted with the American flag. The United States Code forbids the flag to be used as “wearing apparel, bedding or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up in folds, but always allowed to fall free.”
The flag may, however, be worn as a patch “affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen and members of patriotic organizations.”
• The American Flag comes first. In hoisting multiple flags up the pole, check the order. The American flag should fly above state, decorative and organization flags. If you are honoring another nation, the flags are separate, but equal.
“International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace,” according to the Code.
• When in trouble, flip your flag. Traditionally, all American flags should be flown with the Union — the blue section with the stars — at the upper left corner. If you find yourself in need of help and without a telephone, try flipping your American flag and flying it with the union down. It’s our national distress sign.
• Your flag has a bedtime. When the sun sets, you should lower your American flag, properly fold it and store it until the next morning. If you want Old Glory aloft over night, you need to give it a nightlight. In terms of the code, you must have at least one light dedicated to spotlighting your flag.
• Flying a tattered flag is worse than flying no flag at all. Weather-beaten and damaged flags are considered an affront to the nation. Why? Because the Flag Code defines the American flag as a living thing, meaning any damage is equivalent to damaging the nation. If your flag is in disrepair, you must dispose of it respectfully.
• You can burn the American Flag respectfully. Though typically a symbol of protest, burning the American flag is also the preferred disposal method under code. If you don’t have the heart to set the flag ablaze, a local branch of the American Legion will end the life of your tattered flag.