Sunday, May 19, 2013

What Is Flag and National Anthem Etiquette?

With Memorial Day coming up here in a few days, I figure it might be time to talk about what is proper Flag and National Anthem etiquette?

First off, proper etiquette for Old Glory or The Star Spangled Banner, or as a matter of fact the Pledge of Allegiance, is just not that tough that everyone can't do it.

We here in the United States know that there are events which are usually opened with the formal presentation of the Flag of the United States of America followed by the national anthem.

And yes, some events are opened with the Pledge of Allegiance.

The information below describes the proper way for US citizens within U.S. jurisdictions to show the due respect for these symbols of our country, as defined by the Code of Laws of the United States of America - also known as the United States Code.

Flag Etiquette

It is all about standards of respect.

When the flag of the United States of America is formally presented or paraded, the proper etiquette or respect is described below:

United States Code, Title 4 Chapter 1 — The Flag, section 9:
  • During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the flag is passing in a parade or in review, all persons present in uniform should render the military salute.
  • Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute.
  • All other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.
  • Citizens of other countries present should stand at attention.
  • All such conduct toward the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.

The Flag Code

The Flag Code, which formalizes and unifies the traditional ways in which we give respect to the flag, also contains specific instructions on how the flag is not to be used. They are: 
  • 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 speakers desk, or draping a platform. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes are 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.
  • When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms. To store the flag it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously.
  • The flag should be cleaned and mended when necessary.
  • When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner.

Note: Most American Legion Posts regularly conduct a dignified flag burning ceremony. Many Cub Scout Packs, Boy Scout Troops, and Girl Scout Troops retire flags regularly as well. Contact your local American Legion Hall or Scout Troop to inquire about the availability of this service.

Displaying the Flag Outdoors

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

When it is displayed from the same flagpole with another flag - of a state, community, society or Scout unit - the flag of the United States must always be at the top except that the church pennant may be flown above the flag during church services for Navy personnel when conducted by a Naval chaplain on a ship at sea.

When the flag is displayed over a street, it should be hung vertically, with the union to the north or east. If the flag is suspended over a sidewalk, the flag's union should be farthest from the building.

When flown with flags of states, communities, or societies on separate flag poles which are of the same height and in a straight line, the flag of the United States is always placed in the position of honor - to its own right: 
  • The other flags may be smaller but none may be larger.
  • No other flag ever should be placed above it.
  • The flag of the United States is always the first flag raised and the last to be lowered.  

When flown with the national banner of other countries, each flag must be displayed from a separate pole of the same height. Each flag should be the same size. They should be raised and lowered simultaneously. The flag of one nation may not be displayed above that of another nation.

Raising and Lowering the Flag

Old Glory should be raised briskly and lowered slowly and ceremoniously.

Ordinarily it should be displayed only between sunrise and sunset. It should be illuminated if displayed at night.

The flag of the United States of America is saluted as it is hoisted and lowered.

The salute is held until the flag is unsnapped from the halyard or through the last note of music, whichever is the longest.

Displaying the Flag Indoors

When on display, the flag is accorded the place of honor, always positioned to its own right. Place it to the right of the speaker or staging area or sanctuary. Other flags should be to the left.

The flag of the United States of America should be at the center and at the highest point of the group when a number of flags of states, localities, or societies are grouped for display.

When one flag is used with the flag of the United States of America and the staffs are crossed, the flag of the United States is placed on its own right with its staff in front of the other flag.

When displaying the flag against a wall, vertically or horizontally, the flag's union (stars) should be at the top, to the flag's own right, and to the observer's left.

Parading and Saluting the Flag

When carried in a procession, the flag should be to the right of the marchers.

When other flags are carried, the flag of the United States may be centered in front of the others or carried to their right.

When the flag passes in a procession, or when it is hoisted or lowered, all should face the flag and salute.

The Salute

To salute Old Glory, all persons come to attention.

Those in uniform give the appropriate formal salute.

Citizens not in uniform salute by placing their right hand over the heart and men with head cover should remove it and hold it to left shoulder, hand over the heart.

Members of organizations in formation salute upon command of the person in charge.

The Flag in Mourning

To place the flag at half staff, hoist it to the peak for an instant and lower it to a position half way between the top and bottom of the staff.

The flag is to be raised again to the peak for a moment before it is lowered.

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 used to cover a casket, the flag should be placed with the union at the head and over the left shoulder. It should not be lowered into the grave.

National Anthem Etiquette
During the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem

The pledge of allegiance should be rendered by standing at attention, facing the flag, and saluting.

When the national anthem is played or sung, citizens should stand at attention and salute at the first note and hold the salute through the last note.

The salute is directed to the flag, if displayed, otherwise to the music. 
During the playing of the national anthem of the United States of America, the proper etiquette or respect is described below:

United States Code, Title 36, section 301:

1. Designation. — The composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.

2. Conduct During Playing — During rendition of the national anthem:

When the flag is displayed individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note; members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute in the manner provided for individuals in uniform; and all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.

Keep in mind that there is no need to observe the above etiquette if you merely see the flag.

For example, at a rodeo the flag is often carried by a mounted rider. If the rider should carry the flag into the arena during a warm-up period prior to the rodeo there is no need to stand at attention and/or salute.

However, when the flag is formally introduced and passes by, rules of proper etiquette and respect apply.

Now as for Women and Hats

At a rodeo it is not uncommon to find women wearing cowboy hats or some other type of hat.

While the United States Code does describe the removal of "headdress," or hats, as proper etiquette for the formal presentation of the flag and the playing of the national anthem, this stipulation has not traditionally been applied to women.

Today, though, with the popularity of unisex hats among women such as a cowboy hat or ball cap, some women voluntarily remove their hat.

But to the best of my knowledge however, it is nonetheless not considered disrespectful if she chooses to leave it on.

But for the guys, they should take off there hats and place it over there hearts and give due respect to the symbol of our freedom and liberty.

It is worth mentioning that during the formal presentation of the flag and the national anthem, that not all "headdress" is the type that needs to be removed. For example, religious headdress such as a Jewish yamaka has always been considered an exception and may be left on.

Though most believe that there is or at least "should be" enforcement, it should be noted that while our flag and national anthem etiquette is Federal Law as defined by the United States Code - there are no provisions for enforcement.

Bottom line, showing proper etiquette or respect for Old Glory or our national anthem is voluntary.
Of course, there is that fact that not showing proper respect for Old Glory or our national anthem is a classless act.

Showing disrespect for either, might have someone taking the offender to task.
Then There Are The Ignorant!

It's true that every now and again you find someone so self-absorbed that they are either ignorant or just plain stupid.

Fact is that there are people, who in most cases were probably brought up without any guidance at all when it comes to love of our country.

These people have no idea what these symbols mean, how precious they are, or that it is right to give respect to them.

And yes, in most cases, you just can't fix stupid!



Story by Tom Correa

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