Ode to Our American Flag – How the Star-Spangled Banner Became National Anthem

 

Until the War of 1812, the primary function of the American flag was to identify ships and forts. The flag didn’t attract the reverence of the public. It wasn’t until Francis Scott Key wrote a song glorifying it that the flag took on symbolic meaning to Americans. The sight of the flag rallied Key and his fellow prisoners. Continue reading

Saluting First Responders – Why We Fly the Firefighter Flag

First responders are among the bravest people in the workforce. They put their lives on the line to rescue and save the lives of others. Firefighters are among the many other first responders who risk their lives every day they are on the job. They work 24-hour shifts and, sometimes, take up to ten calls a day to protect their communities and the people who live in them.

We fly the firefighter flag in tribute to these brave men and women who help keep us safe.

Benjamin Franklin in fireman uniform Continue reading

Outdoor Flags for Flag Day – Our Recommendations

American Flag on flagpole

We celebrate Flag Day in the United States on June 14th every year to honor the flag of our country. People throughout the country proudly fly their flags to demonstrate their patriotism and love of country.

If you have never flown a flag outdoors, start a family tradition this year and do so. Before you do, you need to decide what type of flag to fly and on what sort of flagpole you need to properly display it. Continue reading

I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag: A History of the Pledge of Allegiance

The Pledge of Allegiance is recited every day across the United States of America, whether it’s in school, a group meeting or a commemorative service. People of all ages know to face the flag, place their right hand over their heart and recite the words.

As an American, we learn the pledge of allegiance at a very young age and often recite it each day of our lives. But what is the history and meaning behind the Pledge of Allegiance, and how were its words (some of which have been highly debated) chosen? Continue reading

Thin Blue Line Flag and 12 More Ways to Support Law Enforcement

Blue line flag and 12 more ways to support law enforcementWe rely on our police, firefighters, EMTs, and other public service workers to keep our communities safe. Their jobs are difficult and often dangerous, but the brave men and women who take on these duties rarely give them a second thought. With so much unrest recently, now is a great time to show your support for law enforcement and the important role they fill in our communities. We’ve put together a collection of simple gestures to show your appreciation. Continue reading

American Flag Guidelines You Need to Know

You have no doubt been wondering, ever since 1923, exactly how the American flag ought to be displayed. That, of course, being the year that the government ratified the United States Flag Code, although at that time it was more or less merely a codification of the procedures and regulations that the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army had already been following.

The next year, as you recall, the National Flag Conference made some slight changes to the Code and called it good, leaving it to Congress to eventually draft a resolution recognizing the Code as Law. Which, you certainly recollect, they got around to doing in 1942. Continue reading

A Flag Etiquette Primer

usa-1149896_1280As a symbol of hope and unity, the American  flag is without peer, serving to remind all who behold it that, so long as it flies, freedom will triumph.

Flown proudly outside of schools, churches, and government buildings alike, American flags are a solemn gesture of solidarity and patriotism for the greatest country on earth.

Our history is a remarkable one, and its struggle is evidenced in the very fabric of the flag: red for the blood spilt in the name of liberty, white for purity and equality, and blue for justice. Because of this, it is our duty to honor our flags properly as the embodiment of all that makes this country great.

Paying Respect

The Flag Code is the formal body of instruction we must follow in order to properly honor the flag. It contains specific instructions regarding how the flag ought to be used and not used. Take a look at some of its most important standards of respect:

  • The flag may never be bowed down to anyone or anything.
  • The flag should only be flown upside-down as a signal of distress or emergency.
  • The flag must never be worn nor draped over any surface for use as decoration. (Bunting should be used for this.)
  • The flag should not be used for advertising purposes. Similarly, it should not be printed on any disposable articles, such as napkins or paper plates.
  • The flag should not be worn as costume; however, a flag patch is acceptable on the uniforms of military personnel, as well as policeman and other similar groups.
  • Whenever the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground.
  • When stored, it should be folded crisply and with dignity.

Contrary to some beliefs, the burning of the flag is, in fact, appropriate when the flag is too worn, so long as the burning is done in a dignified and ceremonious manner. Many American Legion Posts, as well as Boy Scout Troops, often have regular flag burning ceremonies to retire flags that are no longer suited for flying.

Raising and Lowering the Flag

As a rule, the flag ought to be displayed only during the hours between sunrise and sunset, although it may be displayed at night so long as it is illuminated. Raised quickly and lowered slowly, the flag is saluted while both ascending and descending.

Flying the Flag Outdoors

When flying the flag outdoors on a staff, the union (the stars) must be level with the peak of the staff, unless it is being flown half-staff. If another flag is being flown from the same staff, the United States flag must be on top (with only certain religious exceptions), and it must be the largest.  It should also be the first raised and last lowered. When displayed over a street, the flag should be hung vertically with the union to the north or east.

The Flag Indoors

The flag displayed inside should always have the place of honor, and, when situated behind a speaker or stage, it should be placed to its right (the observer’s left) while other flags should be placed to the left. Additionally, the flag of the United States of America should always be in the center of and at the apogee of any grouping of other flags. If two staffs are crossed, the American flag should be on its own right with its staff in front of the other. If displayed against a wall, the union should be to the observer’s left.

The Salute

Saluting is one of the most important ways in which to pay respect to the flag. Citizens should place their right hand over their heart to do so properly. Men with hats or caps, however, should remove the headpiece and hold it to their left shoulder over their heart. Uniformed personnel offer their own formal salute.

The Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem

The pledge of allegiance should be recited while standing at attention, facing the flag and saluting it. Similarly, the national anthem requires that you stand at attention, beginning your salute at the first note, and holding it until completion. If the flag is not visible during the presentation, salute toward the music.

In Mourning

There are few times when the flag means more than in times of mourning. Making sure it is properly honored is of paramount importance.

When raising the flag to half-staff, first raise the flag briefly to the peak before lowering it to the middle-point. When lowering the flag, again, bring it first to peak. It should be noted that on Memorial Day the flag ought to be raised at half-staff until noon, before being raised to full-staff from noon until sunset.

When covering a casket, the union should be at the head and over the left shoulder. The flag is not lowered into the ground.

The United States of America has an extremely proud and storied history. Whether you or your loved ones are veterans, current service members, or simply patriots, there is no better way to honor the struggle and majesty of this country than by honoring the flag. It’s a simple measure, but it’s a powerful one – and it’s one that speaks volumes.

How to Properly Dispose of a Damaged American Flag

tattered-flag-432580_640The American flag is an honorable thing, embodying the very spirit and ideals upon which this country was founded, and for which so many have fought so valiantly. To honor those values as well as that sacrifice, it is important to take pride in your flag. To that end, there may come a time when your flag becomes worn or damaged, and you must appropriately and dutifully dispose of the old flag before flying anew.

Disposing of a damaged flag properly is an important part of maintaining the respect, reverence, and honor for The Stars and Stripes. Take a look below for some general information regarding proper disposal techniques.

Burning the Flag in a Respectable Manner

Contrary to what some believe, the most appropriate and respectful method of disposing of a worn or damaged flag is to burn it. In order to achieve a proper and dignified flag burning (as well as a safe one), certain steps should be taken beforehand.

Check local burning laws in your area. Some local authorities prohibit building fires without obtaining a permit from the city.

If it is windy outside, consider postponing the burning ceremony until the weather is more suitable.

Construct a fire in a safe location. If possible, use a fire pit that is already in place.

Make sure the area is clean prior to ignition, by sweeping away any leaves, garbage, or debris. These pose a potential fire hazard, as well as their not holding with an environment of respect.

Once the fire has been lit, wait until it has reached a steady burn. The fire must be strong enough to burn the flag, but not so strong that pieces of the flag don’t fully incinerate.

The flag should then be folded in the traditional triangle fold.

Always treat the flag with respect, and do not put it on the ground or carry anything on top of it as you make your way to the fire.

Gently place the folded flag into the fire pit. As the flag burns, keep an eye on it to ensure it is burning safely.

It is customary during this process to come to attention, salute the flag, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and finish with a brief period of silence.

After the flag is completely burned, the fire should be safely extinguished, and the ashes buried.

Burying the Flag

If you are unable to burn a flag, there are alternative methods which are also respectful and appropriate. For some, burying the flag is a viable alternative. If you opt to bury your worn or damaged flag, take a look at the information below.

  • Choose an appropriate box made of high-quality material.
  • Properly fold the flag and place it inside of the box.
  • Dig a deep enough hole in the earth so that the flag cannot be retrieved by animals or lawn equipment.
  • Consider marking the spot of burial with a small marker. 

Shredding the Flag

Still others elect to shred their old flags, and then either bury or burn the pieces. The U.S. Army recommends this as another, viable method of disposal.

  • To shred the flag, use scissors to cut apart the 13 stripes.
  • Leave the blue star-spangled field in one piece.
  • For burial: Once the flag is cut, place the parts into a box and follow burial instructions above.
  • For burning: Place the pieces of the flag into the fire one by one and follow the instructions regarding burning above.

Recycling the Flag

Today, many flags are made of nylon, polyester, and other artificial materials, all of which can be recycled. Indeed, if burned, some of these materials can create toxic fumes that are harmful to the air you breathe. To remedy this, there exist many private organizations and non-profits that will recycle flags for you safely and respectfully.

Pass the Flag Along to a Qualified Organization

In addition to companies that will recycle old or damaged flags, many organizations will properly and ceremoniously dispose of your flag. Some of the most popular of these agencies include The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Boy Scouts of America, the Girl Scouts of America and the U.S. Military.

Conclusion

American flags are more than just the fabric they are woven from. They are a symbol of unity, perseverance, justice, and freedom. Whether you opt to burn your flag, shred it, recycle it, or pass it along to another group to handle, make sure you take the time to carefully and responsibly retire your flag. It may seem like a small gesture, but it is a powerful one all the same.