Memorial Day Flag Etiquette

May 27th, 2017

Memorial Day is celebrated as the beginning of with a long weekend of parties, festivals, and barbecues. Even so, people do not forget that Memorial Day is actually a day to remember those who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. As a part of that remembrance, many people visit cemeteries of the fallen to place flags and/or flowers on the graves, play flag games, and participate in many other activities designed to honor those that gave their all for us.

 


 

Half Staff Protocol

 

Federal statute 4 U.S. Code Section 7 dictates that the American flag is to be flown at the half-mast position until noon on Memorial Day and then raised to the peak of the flagpole. Half-staff means the flag is positioned at the halfway position between the top and bottom of the flagpole. The proper way to obtain the half-staff position is to hoist the flag to the peak of the flagpole for an instant and then lower it to the half-staff position.

 

Flag Presentation

 

Your flag should be in pristine condition. This means the colors of your flag should be vibrant and there should be no holes or tears. If you flag is soiled you may wash it, and if torn, have it repaired. Beyond those measures, when your flag becomes soiled and tattered to the point that it is no longer vibrant and a fitting emblem, it should be retired and a new flag purchased to take its place. See subsection at the end of this post for information on retiring your flag.

 

Showing Respect to the Flag During Ceremonies

Many Memorial Day celebrations include ceremonies involving the U.S. flag. During those ceremonies, individuals should:

 

*     Stand at attention facing the flag and put their right hand over their heart.

*     If a hat is being worn, the hat should be removed with the right hand and held by the left shoulder with the palm of the hand over the heart.

*     Individuals that are not U.S. citizens and are attending ceremonies should stand at attention.

*     When flags are carried in a parade, it is respectful for spectators to salute the flag as it passes by.

 

 

Properly Disposing of Tattered Flags

 

If your flag is old and tattered, you should dispose of it in a proper manner and purchase a new one to show your respect for those who have fallen while in service to our country in the U.S. Armed Forces. Federal statute 4 U.S. Code Section 8(k) dictates that the American flag should be destroyed in a dignified way when it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, preferably by burning.

 

The Veterans of Foreign Wars gives additional instructions for the disposal of the American Flag. That organization notes that the flag should first be folded in the customary manner and then placed in a fire that has the intensity to completely burn the flag. While the flag is burning, those observing may salute the flag, stand at attention, observe a period of silence, or recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Once the flag is completely burned, the fire should be extinguished and the ashes buried. Note that many VFW posts, boy scouts, and other organizations host flag burning events for the community to help them properly dispose of their flags.

 

Flagpoles Etc.

 

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