Our flag: Hold it high, treat it well

American’s love to display our country’s flag, and proof of that tradition is all around us, particularly during the summer season as we move into full outdoor and backyard festivities mode.

There is only one hiccup in this practice: most Americans are fairly rusty when it comes to their working knowledge of even the most basic rules and practices of established flag etiquette.

This is not a problem lacking a solution.

Looking at this scenario from another point of view: there is no better time to brush up on your personal knowledge about flag etiquette than now, as numerous opportunities to display and recognize our country’s flag in public will cross your family and business calendar in coming months.

Where does one start their effort to improve on their personal knowledge of flag etiquette? It may just be the place some may view as more of the end of the process rather than a beginning: connecting with a local resource to properly and respectfully destroy a flag no longer in condition to display.

Making a connection with your local Veterans of Foreign Wars or the American Legion organizations will give access to just such a public service resource.

These organizations regularly hold flag disposal ceremonies, a service available to those in the public wanting to permanently retire a U.S. flag in a manner showing both reverence and respect for all each flag embodies.

Members of these and organizations have long provided the public with a means to safely, respectfully and reverently retire these symbols of our country, but that is hardly where their value to the general public ends when it comes to all things U.S. flag related.

They are a limitless resource of access to information helpful when trying to separate fact from fiction when it comes to such topics as flag use, manner of display, cleaning and maintenance.

Most Americans know it is against the law to destroy a flag, even a badly battered or obviously weather worn one.

They also know that displaying one in poor condition is not the thing to do either.

So, you retire the old flag and want to replace it with a new one.

Now is the perfect time to do a little research on the rules of law and of etiquette connected to displaying the U.S. flag.

Rules of displaying the flag and images of it are specific.

However, in recent decades the practice of sporting images of our flag have become an integral part of our culture in everything from t-shirts to computer screen savers, which in most cases are meant simply as examples of patriotism.

However, if the letter of the law were to be followed such items would be considered violations of both this very law and of accepted proper flag etiquette.

Here are some legally recognized basics of what not to do when it comes to flag use and display:

Do not fly the flag outdoors in particularly inclement weather as exposure to severe winds and rain may damage the flag or the pole on which it is displayed.

The U.S. flag should never be dipped down to touch a person or thing.

Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are dipped as a mark of honor.

The U.S. flag should never be displayed with the union (the field of blue with stars) down except as a signal of dire distress or of when extreme danger to life or property exists.

The U.S. flag should never touch anything beneath it – ground, floor, water or merchandise.

It should never be carried horizontally, but it should always be held high.

Always allow the U.S. flag to fall free- never use the U.S. flag as wearing apparel, bedding or drapery, festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds.

For draping platforms and decorations in general, use blue, white and red bunting, not an actual flag.

Always arrange the bunting with the blue above, the white in the middle and the red below.

The U.S. flag should never be fastened, displayed, used or stored in any manner which will permit it to be easily torn, soiled or damaged in any way.

A flag patch may be affixed to uniforms of military personnel, firemen, policemen and members of patriotic organizations.

Never place anything on the U.S. flag.

The U.S. flag should never have placed upon it, or on any part of it, or attached to it, any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture or drawing of any nature.

Never use the U.S. flag for receiving, holding, carrying or delivering anything.

Our flag should not be embroidered on things like cushions, handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins, boxes or anything designed for temporary use or discard.

Never use any part of the U.S. flag as a costume or athletic uniform.

In addition, there is etiquette to be followed when displaying the flag:

Display a flag on all days when weather permits.

It is customary to display a flag from sunrise to sunset on buildings or on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, on special occasions it may be displayed at night, preferably lighted.

In several places the flag flies day and night; among these are the Capitol in Washington, D.C., and the Fort Henry National Monument in Baltimore, which was the inspiration for “The Star Spangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key.

Raising and lowering our flag is best done according to tradition as well.

It should be raised and lowered by hand.

Never raise the flag while it is furled, or folded.

After being unfurled, it should be hoisted quickly to the peak of the flagstaff.

When time to bring it down, a flag should be lowered slowly and ceremoniously.

The flying of the flag at half-staff, is a sign of mourning.

When flown at half-staff, it should be first hoisted to the top of the pole, and immediately lowered to the half-staff position. It should also be raised to the peak again for a moment before it is lowered for the day.

It is important to remember no other flag can be flown above The United States Flag.

The bottom line and most important point when it comes to the dos and don’ts of flag display according to laws and accepted practices: an American can fly a U.S. flag on any day.

Loccisano may be reached at kloccisano@timesleaderonline.com