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Flag Etiquette

From the Official Site of the Veterans of Foreign Wars


The federal flag code says the universal custom is to display the U.S. flag from sunrise to sunset on buildings and stationary flagstaffs in the open, but when a patriotic effect is desired the flag may be displayed 24-hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness. Also, the U.S. flag should not be displayed when the weather is inclement, except when an all-weather flag is displayed.

Displaying the Flag

  • On Same Staff - U.S. flag at peak, above any other flag.
  • Grouped - U.S. flag goes to its own right. Flags of other nations are flown at same height.
  • Marching - U.S. flag to marchers right (observer’s left).
  • On Speaker’s Platform - When displayed with a speaker’s platform, it must be above and behind the speaker. If mounted on a staff it is on the speaker’s right.
  • Decoration - Never use the flag for decoration. Use bunting with the blue on top, then white, then red.
  • Salute - All persons present in uniform 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.
  • Over a Street - Union (stars) face north or east depending on the direction of the street.
  • Half Staff - 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.
  • Do not let the flag touch the ground.
  • Do not fly flag upside down unless there is an emergency.
  • Do not carry the flag flat, or carry things in it.
  • Do not use the flag as clothing.
  • Do not store the flag where it can get dirty.
  • Do not use it as a cover.
  • Do not fasten it or tie it back. Always allow it to fall free.
  • Do not draw on, or otherwise mark the flag.

Flag Questions & Answers

The following answers are from the current Federal Flag Code, VFW Ritual and U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry.

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. Some VFW Posts provide 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.

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 1800s as decorative enrichment. There are no rules that prohibit the use of fringe on an U.S. flag by nongovernment groups or organizations.

To receive a free copy of the VFW’s “Our Flag” brochure send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to:

Flag Brochure
VFW Citizenship Education Dept.
VFW National Headquarters
406 W. 34th St.
Kansas City, MO 64111



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