Flag Etiquette – Barney Semtner

Posted in: Club Newsletter, Featured, Reflections Articles

Barney Semtner


Flag Etiquette is something that we should all be reminded of from time to time. The American flag is considered a living entity and never dips to any person or thing. It is the premier symbol of our patriotism and proclaims our country’s commitment to freedom. The rules and customs governing the flag’s care and display are something that all citizens of the United States can easily learn.”
In 2007, the U.S. Congress addressed etiquette for the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem in 36 USC 301. When saying the pledge of allegiance, citizens of all ages should stand at attention, face the flag, and salute by placing the right hand over the heart. Men should remove their hats, and women any sports caps. When in uniform, military personnel, firefighters, and law enforcement officers give a military salute. Veterans and service personnel out of uniform may give the military salute or place the right hand over the heart.
Everyone, even very young children, should rise, remain standing, and salute by placing the right hand over the heart during the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner—first note to last. The anthem isn’t easy to sing, and you need not do so if you don’t have the necessary range. But you must stand quietly until “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave” has rung out and the music ends.

If you are on the way to your seat at a sports event, or in any public place, and the first strains of the anthem are heard, stop where you are and stand at attention until the end. Don’t talk, chew gum, eat, or smoke during the singing of the anthem.
The American flag should always be handled respectfully, and should be carefully protected in storage and in use so that it won’t be damaged. Every precaution should be taken to prevent it from becoming soiled, tattered, or torn. It should not touch the ground, water, or floor. When handling the flag don’t let it brush against other objects.

If the flag gets wet, it should be smoothed and hung until dry—never roll, fold, or put it away while still damp. Flags should be dry-cleaned, not washed, and kept in good repair. It’s fine to trim and repair ragged edges or re-sew stripes that have separated in the wind.

According to the United States Flag Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, “The flag, when it is in such a condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem of display, should be retired and destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” Many American Legion Posts provide this service..
American flags are out in force on holidays—especially the Fourth of July, Memorial Day (see above), Flag Day (June 14), and Veterans’ Day (November 11). It’s proper to fly the flag every day of the year, weather permitting, between sunrise and sunset. It may also be flown at night as part of a patriotic display as long as it is illuminated. Customarily the flag is not flown in inclement weather unless it is made of all-weather material.


Whenever the flag passes by, as in a parade, U.S. citizens pay it their respects by standing at attention and placing the right hand over the heart. Men remove their hats and hold them, in their right hands, over their hearts. This rule also applies to women wearing sports caps. Men and women in the armed forces give the military salute as the flag passes. Veterans and service personnel out of uniform may give the military salute or place the right hand over the heart.
While citizens of other countries are not expected to salute the U.S. flag, sing our national anthem, or recite the Pledge of Allegiance, it is respectful for them to stand quietly while the flag passes, the anthem is sung, or the pledge is recited.

Hopefully, as we stand and say the Pledge each week at Rotary and sing the National Anthem, we will be reminded of the proper etiquette to use. For more information on flags, visit: http://www.americanflags.org


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