American Flag Etiquette

The American Flag is an important symbol for our country and represents the unity of America, our common cause, and the hope for a better tomorrow.

American Flag Etiquette

The American Flag is an important symbol for our country and represents the unity of America, our common cause, and the hope for a better tomorrow. The Flag Code formalizes the way in which we should respect the flag.

Standards of Respect

  • The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. It is flown upside down only as a distress signal.
  • The flag should not be used as a drapery, or for covering a speaker's desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.
  • The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or halyard.
  • The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations.
  • The flag should never have placed on it, or attached to it, any mark, insignia, letter, word, number, figure, or drawing of any kind.
  • The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

The flag should never touch the ground when it is being lowered. When stored, the flag should be folded neatly and ceremoniously.

When necessary, the flag should be cleaned and mended. The flag should be burned in a dignified manner when it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country. Many American Legion Posts and Boy/Girl Scout troops regularly retire flags with a dignified flag burning ceremony.

Displaying the Flag Outdoors

When displaying the flag from a staff projecting from a window, balcony, or building, the union (stars) should be at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half staff.

When displayed on a flagpole with multiple flags, the American Flag must always be on top. The only exception being during church services for Navy personnel on ships at sea. During the service the church pennant may be flown above the flag.

The flag should be hung vertically when displayed over a street. When displayed over a sidewalk the union should be farthest from the building.

When the American Flag is flown with other flags on separate flagpoles of the same height, the American Flag will be placed in the position of honor- to its own right. The other flags may not be larger than the American Flag. No other flag should be placed above it. The American Flag is always the first flag raised and will be the last flag lowered.

When the flag is flown with the national flag of other countries, each flag must be displayed on a separate flagpole of the same height. Each flag should be the same size and will be raised and lowered simultaneously. No flag of one nation will be displayed above the others.

Raising and Lowering the Flag

The flag should be raised briskly and lowered slowly and ceremoniously. The flag is normally displayed only between sunrise and sunset. If the flag is displayed at night it should be illuminated. The United States Flag should be saluted while it is being raised and lowered. The salute should be held until the flag is unsnapped from the halyard or through the last note of music, whichever lasts longer.

Displaying the Flag Indoors

When the flag is on display indoors it is accorded the place of honor, to its own right. All other flags should be displayed to the left.

When flags of states, localities, or societies are displayed together the American Flag should be at the center and the highest point of the group.

When another flag is used with the American Flag and the staffs are crossed, the American Flag should be placed on its own right with the staff in front of the other flag.

When the flag is displayed on a wall, vertically or horizontally, the union should be at the top, to the flag's own right, and to the observer's left.

Parading and Saluting the Flag

When the flag is carried in a procession, the flag should be on the right side of the marchers. When other flags are carried as well, the American Flag may be in the center in front or carried to the right of the other flags. When the American Flag passes in the procession, all should face the flag and salute.

The Salute

Everyone should be standing when saluting. Personnel in uniform will give the appropriate formal salute. Those not in uniform will place their right hand over their heart and remove any headgear. Veterans not in uniform may salute the flag and may also render salute during the national anthem.

The Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem

All should stand during the Pledge of Allegiance, facing the flag and render the appropriate salute. For the National Anthem, everyone should stand, render the appropriate salute from the first note to the last note, and either face the flag when displayed or face the direction of the music.

The Flag in Mourning

To place the flag at half staff, first raise the flag to its peak and then lower it to half staff. Prior to the lowering the flag, first raise the flag to its peak and then lower the flag all the way. On Memorial Day the flag is displayed at half staff until noon and at full staff from noon to sunset.

The flag is to be flown at half staff in mourning for designated, principal government leaders and upon presidential or gubernatorial order.

When the flag is used to cover a casket the union should be at the head and over the left shoulder. The flag should not be lowered into the grave.

Information on this page is taken directly from

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