Honoring the Flag
Source: National Flag Foundation
Because the U.S. Flag is the symbol of our country, it should always be displayed in the most prominent, most honored position. No other flag should ever appear more important.
The flag of the United States is a living symbol that calls to our spirit, reminding us of the greatness of America. We cherish and uphold it because it is the standard of honor under which we live. The proper name of the nation’s symbol is the United States Flag; however, it is sometimes referred to as Old Glory.
We view the flag with devotion, for it represents our national heritage of noble deeds, splendid accomplishment, and untold sacrifices which combined to establish the moral character of our country. Our flag is a symbol that makes our past one with the present and makes the present a foundation for tomorrow.
It signifies a people dedicated to liberty, justice and freedom for all.
It is our companion around the world. It summons confidence on sight. There is a magic in its folds that continually renews the hope that this nation, under God, will long be an example everywhere for all who love freedom with honor.
We give homage to the flag because it stands for the courageous, earnest, and unselfish experiences of our people who have given us strength as a nation and pride as citizens.
We respect our flag because we have respect for our fellow citizens, and because our love for country finds its center in our flag.
The customs and traditions which surround the display and use of our flag are guides to the means by which we as proud and grateful citizens may demonstrate the ultimate respect for the flag of our nation. In honoring and saluting our flag we demonstrate affection for our nation, fellow citizens and the proud future we share.
Displaying the Flag Properly
Source: National Flag Foundation
- On a Wall: When the flag is displayed on a wall, it should be displayed with the union uppermost and to the observer’s left.
- Among Subordinate Flags: When the U.S. Flag is among a group of subordinate flags, the U.S. Flag should be at the cent and at the highest point — the position of prominence.
- Displayed from a Staff: When displayed from a staff, the flag should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and to the speaker’s right (facing the audience). If other flags are also displayed, they should be displayed to the speaker’s left.
- On a pole: When several flags are flown from the same pole, the U.S. Flag should always be at the top — except during church services by naval chaplains at sea when the church pennant may be flown above the U.S. Flag on the ship’s mast.
- On a lapel: When the flag is displayed as a lapel pin, it should be worn on the left lapel — near the heart.
- At Half-Staff: Flying the U.S. Flag at half-staff is an honored tradition which signifies that the nation is in mourning due to the death of a prominent citizen. To position the flag at half-staff, first hoist the flag to the peak of the staff for an instant before lowering it to the half-staff position — roughly halfway between the top and bottom of the staff. Before lowering it for the day, raise the flag again to the peak for an instant.
See also the United States Flag Code (36 U.S.C. 173-178)
Flag Folding Ceremony
The flag folding ceremony described by the Uniformed Services is a dramatic and uplifting way to honor the flag on special days, like Memorial Day or Veterans Day, and is sometimes used at retirement ceremonies. Here is a typical sequence of the reading:
[Begin reading as Honor Guard or Flag Detail is coming forward.]
The flag folding ceremony represents the same religious principles on which our country was originally founded. The portion of the flag denoting honor is the canton of blue containing the stars representing the states our veterans served in uniform. The canton field of blue dresses from left to right and is inverted when draped as a pall on a casket of a veteran who has served our country in uniform.
In the Armed Forces of the United States, at the ceremony of retreat the flag is lowered, folded in a triangle fold and kept under watch throughout the night as a tribute to our nation’s honored dead. The next morning it is brought out and, at the ceremony of reveille, run aloft as a symbol of our belief in the resurrection of the body.
[Wait for the Honor Guard or Flag Detail to unravel and fold the flag into a quarter fold–resume reading when Honor Guard is standing ready.]
The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.
The second fold is a symbol of our belief in the eternal life.
The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veteran departing our ranks who gave a portion of life for the defense of our country to attain a peace throughout the world.
The fourth fold represents our weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in times of war for His divine guidance.
The fifth fold is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, “Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong.”
The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
The seventh fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our republic.
The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered in to the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor mother, for whom it flies on mother’s day.
The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood; for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great have been molded.
The tenth fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since they were first born.
The eleventh fold, in the eyes of a Hebrew citizen, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon, and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The twelfth fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost.
When the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, “In God we Trust.”
[Wait for the Honor Guard or Flag Detail to inspect the flag–after the inspection, resume reading.]
After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington and the sailors and marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States, preserving for us the rights, privileges, and freedoms we enjoy today.
Folding the Flag
Source: Boy Scouts of America
1. To fold the flag correctly, bring the striped half up over the blue field.
2. Then fold it in half again.
3. Bring the lower striped corner to the upper edge, forming a triangle.
4. Then fold the upper point in to form another triangle. Continue until the entire length of the flag is folded.
5. When you get near the end—nothing but the blue field showing—tuck the last bit into the other folds to secure it.
6. The final folded flag resembles a cocked hat with only the white stars on a blue field showing.
See also: Flag Folding Ceremony
When to Display the Flag
The flag should be displayed, from sunrise to sunset, on all days when the weather permits, especially on:
New Year’s Day (Jan. 1)
Inauguration Day (Jan. 20)
Martin Luther King’s Birthday (3rd Monday in Jan.)
Lincoln’s Birthday (Feb. 12)
Washington’s Birthday (3rd Monday in Feb.)
Easter Sunday (variable)
Patriots Day (3rd Monday in April)
National Day of Prayer (1st Thursday of May)
Mother’s Day (2nd Sunday in May)
Peace Officers Memorial Day (May15, half staff all day)
Armed Forces Day (3rd Saturday in May)
Memorial Day (last Monday in May, half-staff until noon)
Flag Day (June 14)
Father’s Day (3rd Sunday in June)
Independence Day (July 4th)
Korean War Veterans Day (July 27, half staff all day)
Labor Day (1st Monday in Sept.)
Patriot Day (Sept. 11, half staff all day)
Constitution Day (Sept. 17)
Columbus Day (2nd Monday in Oct.)
Navy Day (Oct. 27)
Election Day (1st Tuesday in Nov.)
Veterans Day (Nov. 11)
Thanksgiving Day (4th Thursday in Nov.)
Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (Dec. 7)
Christmas Day (Dec. 25)
…and such other days as may be proclaimed by the President of the United States or on State and Local Holidays.