The University Record, October 29, 2001

It’s a grand old flag: Observe its code

By Lesley Harding

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, storefronts, buildings, porches and even a few lapels are awash with the Old Glory. This sea of red, white and blue is a testament to the courage, strength and unity of the people of the United States. But when people are draping their flags, are they doing it according to the U.S. Flag Code?

Adopted Flag Day, June 14 of 1923, the U.S. Flag Code provided proper procedure for Army and Navy flag handling. It just so happened that the rest of the nation adopted these practices, too.

Here are proper flag handling tips according to the U.S. Flag Code:

  • The U.S. flag should not be displayed in bad weather unless it’s made of nylon or other non-absorbent material. Today, however, most flags are made of all-weather materials.

  • Only the president of the United States or a state governor can order a flag to be flown at half-staff. This gesture is an indication of national mourning.

  • If the U.S. flag isn’t flown from a staff, it should be displayed vertically, indoors or out, and suspended so that its folds fall free. The stripes can be displayed either horizontally or vertically, as long as the union is uppermost and to the flag’s own right.

  • Any unserviceable flag should be destroyed by burning it. Many American Legion posts conduct Disposal of Unserviceable Flag ceremonies on June 14, Flag Day.

  • A flag can be washed or dry-cleaned depending on the material.

  • The U.S. flag should not touch anything beneath it, such as the ground. This provision is so the flag does not become dirty. It is not a requirement to destroy it if it does.

  • A person other than a veteran can have his or her casket draped with the U.S. Flag, although the honor is usually reserved for veterans or state and national figures.

  • The Flag Code states that flags should only be displayed from sunrise to sunset when out in the open. The flag may be displayed 24-hours a day only if it’s properly illuminated.

  • The U.S. flag flies over the White House when the president is in Washington, D.C. It is not displayed when the president is traveling.

  • The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.

  • The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture or drawing of any nature.

  • The flag never should be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.

  • No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume [patches are acceptable]. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin, being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.

    For more information on flag etiquette or the official U.S. Flag Code visit the American Legion Web site at