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The Flag Code

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Today, June 14th, is Flag Day. This holiday commemorates the adoption of the American Flag on June 14, 1777. While not a holiday people get off of work for, most people honor Flag Day by displaying the American flag on their property.

To honor our American flag, know the proper observances when displaying your flag.


Flag Terminology & Symbolism

The upper left hand corner of the flag, the white stars on a blue background, is called the "Union".

The official colors of the flag are "White", "Old Glory Red", and "Old Glory Blue". 

There is no official symbolism to the colors of the flag. Symbolism ascribed to flag colors today is just the creation of "sentimental writers and orators," as described by the official website of the US Flag. 

Though, symbolism was attached to the colors of our official Great Seal. White represents purity and innocence. Red represents hardiness and valor. Blue represents vigilance, perseverance, and justice. The image to the right is the final submitted drawing to Congress as the basis for our Great Seal back in 1782. 

The House of Representatives did publish a report in the 1970's suggesting, "The star is a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun." 


The Flag Code

The standard etiquette to respecting and honoring the American Flag is called "The Flag Code". Some highlights of the code follows.

  • The flag should always be positioned at the peak of a flag pole when displayed, with the Union at the top side.

  • The flag should only be displayed lower than the peak if flying at half staff. Flying the flag at half staff is mandated by the President of the United States only. You can find half staff observances at

  • When flying half staff, it is proper to raise the flag to the peak of the pole momentarily and then to half staff. Same protocol is observed when lowering. Raise to the peak first before lowering.

  • When displayed with other countries, the flags of the countries must be at the same height and raised and lowered simultaneously.

  • When displayed with other flags, such as state or organization flags, the American flag must always be placed higher* and must never be smaller than the other flags.

  • When displayed with other flags, the American flag must be the first one raised and the last one lowered.

  • Flags should only be displayed between sunrise and sunset. It should be illuminated if displayed at night.

  • When displaying on a wall, vertically or horizontally, the Union must be on the observer's left top corner.

  • The proper salute to the flag for civilians is placing your right hand over your heart. Men wearing hats must remove them, place it in their right hand and bring it to their left shoulder. This allows the right hand to be over the heart.

  • The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing.

  • It should never be flown upside down unless serving as a distress signal.

  • The flag should never be used for decoration.

  • The flag should never be used for advertising purposes. It should not be imprinted or embroidered on anything with temporary use intended to be discarded. Advertisements must never be attached to the flag pole.

  • The flag should never be used for a uniform unless it is that of a military personnel. 

      *The only exception is during a church service conducted by a Naval Chaplain for Navy personnel on a ship at sea. In this case, a church pennant may be placed higher.


    Retiring Flags

    When a flag gets old and no longer is a fit symbol to serve our country, is should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner. Many American Legion Posts, VFW Posts, Boy Scout Troops, Girl Scout Groups, and Cub Scout Packs perform ceremonial flag burnings to retire American flags.

    Find VFW Posts

    Find American Legion Posts

    Contact A Local Boy Scout Group

    Contact A Local Girl Scout Group





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