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FLYING THE AMERICAN FLAG

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  by Jennifer Jones

With Flag Day just passed and the Fourth of July approaching, it is a great time to show your patriotism. The American flag has become a worldwide symbol of freedom and portrays the history of America, surviving two World Wars and over 200 years. Schools, administration buildings and polling places all proudly display the flag outside their buildings. Additionally, it is every American’s right to proudly raise the American flag outside their homes in respect, remembrance and celebration of the United States of America.

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The American flag is held in such a high honor that rules were established in 1923 by a group of organizations headed by the American Legion for the purpose of showing the proper respect for the flag. During World War II, these rules became a law that is referred to as the United States Flag Code. Title 36, Chapter 10 in the United States Code outlines the policies and creates a manual of customs for proper flag handling. It is extremely important to properly display the flag if you decide to mount the Stars and Stripes outside your house. Here are several need-to-know tips on correct American flag etiquette:

craftsman style home with American flag flying

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  • For a stationary flag placed outside the home, display it from sunrise to sunset. If you wish to keep it up at night, the flag must be properly illuminated with a dedicated spotlight.

  • If displaying the flag attached to the home, project it horizontally or fly it at an angle from the balcony, windowsill or the front of the house.

  • It should always be flown in the upright position, with the union (the blue field) in the observer’s top left corner. Only in desperate cases can the flag be displayed upside down
    as a symbol of extreme distress, danger and a call for help.

  • The flag must be taken inside in inclement weather conditions, unless you have an all-weather flag. Some severe weather, like hail and strong storms, can still damage an all-weather flag, so it is best to bring it inside in such cases.

  • Display the flag at half-staff at specified times according to presidential instructions. It first must be hoisted to the top peak, and then lowered to half-staff position. When retrieving for the day, it must be raised back to the peak again and then lowered completely. If the flag is on a fixed position on a pole, the American Legion recommends adding a black ribbon to the top of the pole to signify mourning.

  • If the flag is to be displayed with other flags, it should be at the top above all others and/or to the left of the observer.

  • When retrieving the flag, it should never touch anything beneath it, including the ground, water or floor.

  • The flag should be protected from usage and storage that may tear, soil or damage it.

  • Flags that have been damaged, or that are no longer fit for display should be destroyed in an appropriate manner, preferably by burning it.

  • Never transport the flag horizontally or flat. It should always remain aloft and free.

  • Do not use the American flag as clothing, drapery, bedding or any other decorative element.

  • The flag should not be used for advertising or embroidered, impressed or imprinted onto disposable items.

  • Other marks, letters, figures or designs should never be placed on the flag.

  • It should never be used as a vessel for carrying or holding anything.

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Some homeowners like to show their patriotism every day and it is their right to do so. The Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 was established saying that no one can be restricted from properly displaying the American flag on their own residential property.

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Here is a list of days that it is especially important to display the American flag:

American flag flying in the wind

- New Year's Day, January 1   

- Inauguration Day, January 20

- Lincoln's Birthday, February 12

- Washington's Birthday, third Monday in February

- Easter Sunday

- Mother's Day, second Sunday in May

- Peace Officers Memorial Day, May 15 (half-staff)

- Armed Forces Day, third Saturday in May

- Memorial Day (half-staff until noon), last Monday in  May

- Flag Day, June 14

- Independence Day, July 4

- Labor Day, first Monday in September

- Patriot Day, September 11 (half-staff)

- Constitution Day, September 17

- Columbus Day, second Monday in October

- Navy Day, October 27

- Veterans Day, November 11

- Thanksgiving Day, fourth Thursday in November

- Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, December 7 (half-staff)

- Christmas Day, December 25

- State birthdays, state holidays and announced days by the U.S. President.

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The American flag is one of the most important and visible symbols of our country. It is thought to be a living thing and should always be treated with respect and dignity. Every American has the freedom to proudly display their loyalty by flying the Stars and Stripes. If you live in the land of the free and the home of the brave, express your pride and show your colors!

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