By Susan H. Lawson, U.S. Department of Defense
This week, American flags will be displayed across the nation in celebration of the Independence Day holiday. Following a few guidelines can ensure we are displaying Old Glory properly.
In 1923, the U.S. National Flag Code was created and distributed nationwide. The code became Public Law in 1942 and became the U.S. Flag Code we know today. The U.S. Flag Code lays out the ways to display and respect the flag of the United States.
- The flag should not be on display outdoors during bad weather.
- The flag should not be used for advertising purposes, or embroidered on cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins or boxes.
- The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding or drapery.
- It should never be displayed upside down unless trying to convey a sign of distress or great danger.
- The flag should never touch anything beneath it; this includes water, merchandise and even the floor.
- When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag's own right, that is, to the observer's left. When displayed in a window, the flag should be displayed in the same way, with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street.
Other Do's and Don'ts:
- Clean and damage-free flags should always be used. Dirty, ripped, wrinkled or frayed flags should not be used. Also, when flags are damaged, they should be destroyed in a dignified manner.
- The U.S. flag should flow freely in the wind or in a lobby with a passing breeze as people walk past. Stretching a flag is a lot like walking around with your arms held out straight. It is not to be held captive by metal arm spreaders as if to say, "Look at me!"
- Staffs and finials should always be upright and not leaning.
- Clamping a U.S. flag to a vehicle's antenna is acceptable, or the flagstaff clamped to the right fender, as long as the flag displays in the proper direction.
- Service flags are displayed in order of service precedence, not the host service where they are displayed. The order of precedence is Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.
- When displaying the U.S. flag with other flags, the U.S. flag comes first and is centered in the middle of a flag display. In addition, the U.S. flag must be placed higher than the other flags, unless other national flags are present. In that case the U.S. flag would be the same height.
- Buntings are a good way to display the national colors and decorate for Independence Day without discrediting the U.S. flag.
(Susan H. Lawson is assigned to Panama City Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City, Florida.)