Flag Etiquette

Flag Etiquette
By: Jeff Cunningham

Veterans Day is set aside to say thanks to our men and women in uniform.  For many, freedom, sacrifice and honor are all represented in our flag, but the rules surrounding Old Glory seem to be a bit of a lost art.
So, now we look at the proper way to display the stars and stripes and what it means to some of our local veterans.
World War II veteran Wilbur Johnson is in charge of the color guard at VFW Post 3838 in Cape Girardeau every day, you will see the stars and stripes displayed proudly out front.
It's something these veterans take very seriously.  For who else knows the sacrifice for which the flag represents better than veterans?
I think Wilbur put it best..."When Old Glory flies things are alright and when its not flying things are not alright," he said.
So, speaking of Old Glory, how did the flag get the name?
It is credited to Captain William Driver, a shipmaster from Salem, Massachesetts, in 1831.  He was given a flag and when it opened to an ocean breeze he said, "Old Glory."
There are several rules concerning the stars and stripes.  See how many you know.
  1. When displayed, the stars are always in the upper left hand corner.
  2. The American flag is always flown above any other flag. 
  3. In a group, it is always higher than the others. 
  4. It's always placed to the right of a speaker on a podium  
  5. If it's flown after dark, it is supposed to have a light on it.  Otherwise it should be taken down.
  6. If you're taking a flag down from half staff, it should be taken back up to the top and then taken down.
Here are some more flag questions...
  1. If the flag touches the ground, should you destroy it?  A: no.  You should try and keep that from happening, but if it does clean it and keep using it.
  2. Should the flag be taken down in a rain storm?  A: Only if it is not an all-weather flag.
  3. What if your flag is old and needs to be replaced?  Do you burn it? A: The flag code says it should be destroyed in a dignified manner, perferably burning. A lot of VFW's have a place to take your old flags.
  4. What is the most important day to display the flag? A: Actually, the flag code says it should fly every day, but especially on certain days like Flag Day, June 14th.
The Flag Code states, "The flag should be displayed on all days, especially on:"
  • New Year's Day, January 1
  • Inauguration Day, January 20
  • Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday, third Monday in January
  • Lincoln's Birthday, February 12
  • Washington's Birthday, third Monday in February
  • Easter Sunday
  • Mother's Day, second Sunday in May
  • Armed Forced Day, third Saturday in May
  • Memorial Day (half-staff until noon), the last Monday in May
  • Flag Day, June 14
  • Independence Day, July 4
  • Labor Day, first Monday in September
  • Constitution Day, September 17
  • Columbus Day, second Monday in October
  • Navy Day, October 27
  • Veterans Day, November 11
  • Thanksgiving Day, fourth Thursday in November
  • Christmas Day, December 25
  • and such other days as may be proclaimed by the President of the United States
  • the birhdays of the States
  • State holidays

According to Snopes.com, meanings have come to be ascribed to each of the 13 folds of the flag.


Have you ever wondered why the Flag of the United
States of America is folded 13 times when it is
lowered or when it is folded and handed to the
next of kin at the burial of a veteran?

Here is the meaning of each of those folds and what it means:

The first fold of our Flag is a symbol of life.

The second fold is a symbol of our belief in eternal life.

The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the
veterans departing our ranks who gave a portion of
their lives for the defense of our
country to attain peace throughout the world.

The fourth fold represents our weaker nature, for as
American citizens trusting, it is to Him we turn in
times of peace as well as in time of war for His
divine guidance.

The fifth fold is a tribute to our country, for in the
words of Stephen Decatur, "Our Country, in dealing
with other countries may she always be right; but it
is still our country, right or wrong."

The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is
with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the Flag
of the United States of America, and to the
Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

The seventh fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for
it is through the Armed Forces that we protect our
country and our flag against all her enemies, whether
they be found within or without the boundaries of our

The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered
into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might
see the light of day, and to honor mother, for whom it
flies on Mother's Day.

The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood; for it has
been through their faith, their love, loyalty and
devotion that the character of the men and women who
have made this country great has been molded.

The tenth fold is a tribute to the father, for he,
too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense
of our country since they were first born.

The eleventh fold, in the eyes of a Hebrew citizen
represents the lower portion of the seal of King David
and King Solomon, and glorifies in their eyes, the God
of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The twelfth fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen,
represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in
their eyes, God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.

When the Flag is completely folded, the stars are
uppermost reminding us of our Nation's motto, "In God
We Trust." After the Flag is completely folded and
tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat,
ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under
General George Washington, and the Sailors and Marines
who served under Captain John Paul Jones, who were
followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed
Forces of the United States, preserving for us the
rights, privileges, and freedoms we enjoy today.

The next time you see a Flag ceremony honoring someone
that has served our country, either in the Armed
Forces or in our civilian services such as the Police
Force or Fire Department, keep in mind all the
important reasons behind each and every movement.
They have paid the ultimate sacrifice for all of us by
honoring our Flag and our Country.  ~ Author Unknown